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Poland’s anti-gay president to visit Trump as first foreign visitor since pandemic began

Poland’s anti-gay president to visit Trump as first foreign visitor since pandemic began

  • Meanwhile the EU is threatening Poland’s coronavirus recovery funding due to its ‘LGBT-Free Zones’.
Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda with US President Donald Trump and Melania Trump in Warsaw.

President Donald Trump will welcome the anti-LGBT+ Polish President Andrzej Duda as his first official foreign visitor since the pandemic began.

The visit comes after the US ambassador to Poland condemned discrimination, including on the basis of sexuality. Her remarks appear to be a reference to Duda’s recent anti-LGBT+ attack as he fights for re-election on 28 June.

Meanwhile the EU has suggested it may cut Poland’s coronavirus recovery funding because of the country’s stance on LGBT+ rights.

It all comes as Duda ramps up his rhetoric against the LGBT+ community.

He is currently fighting for re-election and the polling indicates it will be a narrow race between Duda and LGBT+ ally, the Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski.

Duda’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) has frequently used anti-LGBT+ rhetoric to try to shore up its conservative base during elections.

And last week, Duda signed a ‘Family Card’ or ‘Family Charter’ of election proposals. These included a promise not to allow same-sex marriage or adoption and to ban teaching about LGBT+ issues in schools. 

Moreover, he said ‘LGBT ideology’ is ‘more destructive’ than the communist doctrine his parents’ generation fought for 40 years.

Trump to welcome Duda to the US

President Andrzej Duda of Poland.
President Andrzej Duda of Poland. Office of the President Facebook

Those comments seem to have inspired US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher to condemn homophobia on Twitter on Tuesday.

She tweeted: ‘The US condemns discrimination or hatred based on race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.’

However, Mosbacher has denied that the US Embassy has intervened directly with Duda over his anti-LGBT+ comments.

Duda’s visit will take place on 24 June. The timing may be crucial for the Polish president as it’s just four days before the presidential election. Meanwhile it is symbolic to the LGBT+ community as it comes during Pride month.

Trump’s last official foreign visitor was Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. He came to Washington on 12 March, shortly before the coronavirus lockdown.

It is not clear if Trump will raise LGBT+ or other human rights during the visit.

Duda’s meeting with an LGBT+ activist

Meanwhile, Duda’s remarks against the LGBT+ community have also sparked counter protests. And that in turn led to the Polish president agreeing to meet one of LGBT+ activists, Bartosz Staszewski, for talks.

Duda’s spokesman said the talks with Bartosz Staszewski at the presidential palace were ‘good and constructive’.

However Staszewski gave a very different account of the meeting to the Associated Press.

He said he showed Duda photos of young LGBT+ Poles who had died by suicide due to the discrimination they face.

He laid them on a table along with a book about homosexual prisoners at Auschwitz.

Notably, Duda has an uneasy relationship with the legacy of the Holocaust.

He supported making it illegal to accuse ‘the Polish nation’ of complicity in the Holocaust or other Nazi German atrocities. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Polish government of ‘Holocaust denial’.

Moreover, Staszewski told Duda about how thugs have attacked LGBT+ Poles at Pride marches.

He said: ‘I wanted to show him those pictures, look in his eyes and show him that I am not an ideology.’

The pair spoke for about an hour. However when Duda used freedom of speech to defend his comments about ‘LGBT ideology’, Staszewski became angry and left without shaking the president’s hand or saying goodbye.

EU threatens Poland’s funding over ‘LGBT-Free Zones’

Duda’s other current battleground is with the European Union. 

And now the European Commission has written to five Polish local governors who have declared their regions to be ‘LGBT-Free Zones’.

The letter asked the governors to adopt new ‘measures promoting equality and non-discrimination’ and confirm their plans in writing.

The letter noted Polish LGBT+ people’s concerns about increasing rhetoric against them.

Moreover it added: ‘While at the same time they [Polish governors] are using EU funds … these actions [LGBT-Free Zones] result in [some] citizens’ fear of being discriminated [against] by these authorities, or being beaten by other citizens, or losing [their] jobs.’

Significantly, it came from two top officials, Joost Korte and Marc Lemaître, who sign EU cheques to member states on social and regional projects.

Another branch of the EU, the European Parliament, has also intervened in Poland this week.

Fabio Massimo Castaldo MEP, vice-president of the LGBTI Intergroup in the parliament accused Duda of ‘joining the herd who has endlessly scapegoated LGBTI persons for the sake of holding onto power’.

Election too close to call

Rafał Trzaskowski.
Rafał Trzaskowski is pro-LGBT+ and pro-EU. EPP

The argument neatly sums up two of the main issues in a presidential election that sees Poland at a crossroads.

Duda’s supporters and the PiS party take an anti-EU as well as an anti-LGBT+ stance. Indeed, their critics have even suggested they want to create an autocratic Catholic state outside the European Union.

For many, the election of Duda’s main opponent, Rafał Trzaskowski, is the most immediate hope of avoiding this fate.

He is passionately pro-European. And last year he demonstrated his credentials as an LGBT+ ally with a 12-point declaration to protect the community in Warsaw.

The latest polling shows Duda ahead on the first round of the election on 28 June. However, the polls also suggest he would not get the 50% required at that stage. He will then likely face off against Trzaskowski in a second round, where the polls indicate the candidates are level-pegging.