A POLISH town that saw its EU funding slashed for rejecting so-called “LGBT ideology” will now be funded by the nationalist government.
Scores of ultra-Conservative Polish towns, counties and regions have signed anti-LGBTQ pledges and charters – risking twin town funding.
The European Commission has recently blocked payment to six Polish towns under the twin municipalities programme, because of their anti-gay stance.
And some European towns have ended their partnerships with their Polish ‘twins’ after they became homophobic LGBT-free zones, reports Pink News.
They would normally receive grants of between €5,000 (£4,500) and €25,000 (£22,500) as part of the Europe for Citizens project.
The twin city programme aims to boost debate on, and participation in EU policies.
EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli tweeted: “EU values and fundamental rights must be respected by member states and state authorities.”
She told Politico: “Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, are fundamental EU values.”
Tuchow had its application for a European twinning programme rejected after it passed a motion rejecting “LGBT ideology”.
After having its twin town funding stopped, the southern Poland town of Tuchow will now receive 250,000 zlotys (£51,400) from the ministry’s Justice Fund.
Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro told a news conference: “We are supporting a municipality that has a pro-family agenda, promotes support for well-functioning families, and fights against the imposed ideology of LGBT and gender, which is being pushed by the European Commission.”
He also told Rzeczpospolita: “We see that the cultural war for our identity, for our Polish soul, is actually going on.
“We want and will fight to defend our Christian identity. This is because Polishness grows out of it. We are not afraid.”
The minister also said on Facebook: “We will not allow discrimination of Polish citizens and local governments by the European Union.
“The Union must respect the equality of all its citizens, who have the right to form their opinions and beliefs freely.”
The ruling nationalists’ position against gay rights has become a flash-point in a culture war pitting the religious right against more liberal-minded Poles.
President Andrzej Duda campaigned for reelection on an anti-LGBT platform – and won.
Duda, who repeatedly described the LGBT rights movement as a dangerous “ideology,” was sworn into his second term earlier this month.
Critics, including the EU, have accused the Law and Justice (PiS) government of backtracking on womens’ and LGBT rights.
The government has also been slammed for pushing a campaign laced with homophobic rhetoric in the run-up to last month’s presidential election.
On Monday, figures from the arts including actor James Norton, Nobel Prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk, and writer Margaret Atwood signed a letter to the EU calling on Poland’s government to stop targeting the LGBT community.
Their letter tells the Polish government “to stop targeting sexual minorities”.
Last week saw three activists protesting homophobia being detained.
They were charged with the crimes of insulting monuments or offending religious feeling for hanging rainbow flags on statues in Warsaw, including one of Jesus.
If convicted, they could face prison.
With hostility growing towards LGBT people, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Poles have reportedly been fleeing the country, to escape what they consider homophobia promoted by the highest levels of government, reports the Associated Press.
Gays and lesbians have never had the legal right to marry or to form civil unions in Poland, as they can in much of Europe.
Yet many had felt confident until not long ago that Polish society was becoming more accepting and that those rights would one day come.
They have instead faced a furious backlash from the Catholic Church and the government.
For example, Duda proposed a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children.
Last year, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Krakow warned of a “rainbow plague,” and the ruling Law and Justice party has described LGBT rights as a threat to families and Poland’s Catholic identity.
After his victory, Duda apologised for language he admitted was sometimes too “harsh.”
There are no statistics to indicate exactly how many LGBT people have fled from Poland.
However, activists claim some departed after Law and Justice and Duda, who is backed by the party, came to power in 2015 and created an unfriendly climate for liberals and minorities.
A prominent LGBT activist, Bart Staszewski, asked on Facebook if anyone was thinking of moving away from Poland.
He received hundreds of replies, mostly from people saying they were contemplating it or had already left.
Staszewski said: “People want to feel that they are protected by the government and not treated as an enemy.”