polish activists who fought against ‘lgbt free zones’ won their cases
Courts are not letting the government silence LGBT activists.
On April 21, an appeals court in the Polish city of Bialystok threw out a case brought against four LGBT rights activists who started the “Atlas of Hate” project by officials from Przasnysz County. This is the first final ruling in favor of the activists who are being sued multiple times for bringing international attention to Poland’s discriminatory “LGBT-Free Zones.”
The Atlas of Hate is an interactive map of Poland that shows which provinces, towns, and cities have passed discriminatory “family charters” that promise to “protect children from moral corruption” or that say they are free from “LGBT ideology.”
In December 2022, courts in the counties of Opoczno and Tarnów threw out on the first try two more cases that local authorities had brought against Atlas of Hate. After the European Union threatened to cut off funding because of the so-called “LGBT-Free Zones,” two more cities dropped their lawsuits.
Seven of the nearly 100 localities with these anti-LGBT policies sued the Atlas of Hate founders for defamation, asking for public apologies and 280,000 zlotych (US$64,000) for calling their areas “LGBT-Free Zones.” Lawyers from Ordo Iuris, a very conservative group that supported the “LGBT-Free Zone” resolutions, backed the lawsuits.
One of the founders of Atlas of Hate, Jakub Gawron, said, “Local authorities who decided to sue us should finally realize that their claims are doomed to fail.” “Poland’s courts have made it clear that criticizing the government is a right that needs special protection.”
Authorities in one-third of the country passed anti-LGBT laws after Poland’s right-wing ruling party, Law and Justice, made “protecting” Poland from “LGBT ideology” a key part of its successful 2019 election campaign. In Poland, 56 resolutions that are against LGBT people are still in place, including ones in the counties of Przasnysz, Opoczno, and Tarnów.
The Law and Justice Party is trying to make a bad name for LGBT people. At the same time, the rule of law and women’s rights are being eroded, and human rights defenders are often charged with crimes in an attempt to silence and bankrupt them.
As Poland’s court sides with the Atlas of Hate activists, it’s clear that local governments only want to scare off people who fight for human rights and stop people from criticizing anti-LGBT resolutions. The Polish government should stop suing LGBT activists in court and finally get rid of all discriminatory laws.