WARSAW (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Poles are expected to march through the streets of Warsaw on Saturday to demand equality for LGBTQ people, as the community eyes elections in October or November in which gay rights could play a prominent role.
Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has focused on opposing what it calls “LGBT ideology” in previous campaigns, and with the election looking tight activists expect it to use issues like gay marriage or teaching about LGBTQ issues in schools to mobilise socially conservative voters.
“I am almost 100% percent sure that it will be happening again this year,” said Alicja Herda, one of the organisers of Warsaw’s Equality March. “But I am not very worried because we are a very strong community and we will not be easy to stop from doing our prides (marches) because it’s okay to be who we are.”
PiS says that extending marriage and adoption to gay couples threatens traditional family structures and is harmful for children. It also says that teaching about LGBTQ issues in schools results in children being sexualised.
“Children should not be subjected to practices that are certainly harmful to them and can lead to psychological changes that will negatively affect them in adult life,” PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in May.
This view, which is regularly featured in state-run media, strikes a chord with many voters in the predominantly Catholic country. However, critics say the government is seeking to gain votes by stoking prejudice against a minority that already faces widespread discrimination.
For Herda, the fears some conservatives have regarding LGBTQ rights are unfounded. “We don’t want to harm anyone,” she said. “We just want to be treated equally.”
In her view, education about LGBTQ issues is beneficial.
“It’s not that someone will see a rainbow and say ‘Oh, I’m gay now’,” she said. “It’s more that you are already gay inside and you know that. And showing it only makes it easier for us to come out and be who we really are and not be ashamed of ourselves.”