Friday, April 26, 2024
European Union

The truth about the pro-family resolutions adopted by Polish local authorities under Law and Justice

(Photo: iStock – gpoint studio)

The Local Government Charter of Family Rights in Poland had nothing to do with “LGBT-free zones.”

 

Jerzy Kwaśniewski & Nikodem Bernaciak

 (Both authors are lawyers at the Ordo Iuris Institute, of which the former is the chairman. The Ordo Iuris Institute is the Polish conservative lawyers’ organization that prepared the Local Government Charter of Family Rights, which has been fiercely attacked by LGBT organizations and the Polish liberal opposition as well as the European Parliament and the European Commission.)

 

On November 26, 2019, a press conference was held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, under the auspices of the European United Left parliamentary group, where a map titled “Atlas of Hate” was presented. Marked on it were all of the Polish local authorities that had adopted pro-family resolutions of whatever kind, including the Local Government Charter of Family Rights (in 40 cases), resolutions on “LGBT ideology” (in 50 cases), or other independently produced documents (in five cases), placing them under the collective false description “LGBT-free zones.” That map became the first element of a propaganda campaign against the Polish state, which aimed to create the myth outside Poland that the latter county discriminated against people on grounds of their homosexual tendencies or sexual identity disorder. The European Parliament unthinkingly believed these false charges when it included misleading references to such “zones” in anti-Polish resolutions, such as those passed on December 18, 2019, on September 17, 2020, and on March 11, September 14 and November 11, 2021.

EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli boasting she had blocked EU funds for six Polish local governments for having adopted resolutions against LGBT ideology or, in some cases, the Local Government Charter on the Rights of the Family

 

The origins of the Charter of Family Rights – a response to Rafał Trzaskowski’s 2019 “LGBT+ declaration”

The immediate inspiration for the drafting of the Local Government Charter of Family Rights was the unilateral declaration by Warsaw’s mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, on February 18, 2019, of a “Warsaw City Policy for the LGBT+ Community.” That document, referred to in public debate as the “LGBT+ Declaration,” was not published in the legally required form of a regulation or draft resolution. The declaration provided for the introduction in every school of propaganda classes on “psychosexual orientation and gender identity,” preferential treatment for businesses declaring support for LGBT+ political demands, the creation of “rainbow employee networks,” and the opening of a special hostel for persons identifying with the LGBT+ movement.

Since it was announced without broad prior public consultation, it met with severe criticism from very many circles, and not only those traditionally associated with defense of the natural identity of marriage and family values. A week later, on February 25, the city’s Social Dialog Committee on Equal Treatment announced that “a situation where one minority group is more protected than others raises a question about the genuine equal treatment and non-discrimination of residents of the capital by the local authorities,” and in consequence “that document, instead of protecting and guaranteeing equal treatment, in reality causes division, since it divides people experiencing discrimination into the better protected and less protected.” On March 4, Warsaw’s deputy mayor Paweł Rabiej announced that the propagation of elements of the declaration among children “ought to begin at pre-school level,” and on March 15 he revealed a plan of staged introduction that would later become known as the Rabiej Plan: “first let’s introduce civil partnerships, then equality in marriage rights, and finally the time will come for the adoption of children.

The “LGBT+ Declaration” aroused great consternation among parents, who quickly received support from their priests. The Roman Catholic bishops of both Warsaw dioceses announced on March 8 that they “stand in full solidarity with and support the parents concerned by the terms of the ‘LGBT+ Declaration,’” drawing particular attention to the “lack of any mention in the document of the role of parents – whom the school and all the elements of education present in it are intended to serve.” In turn, Protestant community leaders said on March 11 that Trzaskowski’s declaration represented “the harming of children and an attack on parents, a totalitarian interference in home life,” and that “it is not the task of a school or local authority to indoctrinate children with attitudes and values foreign to their homes.

In response to this attempted attack on marriage and the family – unprecedented in Poland – on March 18, 2019, during the Warsaw Parents’ Protest in front of city hall, a draft Local Government Charter of the Rights of the Family (SKPR) was published, having been prepared with the assistance of the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture and other pro-family social organizations. The Charter was intended as a positive, substantial proposal for the promotion and implementation at regional and local level of the constitutional principles of protection of the family, marriage as a union of woman and man, parenthood and motherhood (article 18 of the Polish Constitution), protection of family life (article 47), special protection of the right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs (article 48), and protection of children against moral corruption (article 72). In the years 2019–2021 it was adopted by as many as 40 Polish local authorities: one at provincial (voivodship) level, 17 at county (powiat) level, and 22 at district (gmina) level.

 

Terms of the Local Government Charter of Family Rights and proposal for their implementation by individual local authorities

The Local Government Charter of Family Rights in template form, published on the kartarodzin.pl website in Polish, English, and German, consists of six chapters: 1. Rights of parents and the best interest of the child at school and preschool; 2. Family rights in the local government’s social policy; 3. Social services adapted to the needs of families; 4. Promotion of good practices regarding the rights of families in business; 5. Monitoring and enforcement of family rights; 6. Enactment of family-friendly laws. Examples of the Charter’s provisions include providing parents with the possibility of verifying outside organizations operating at a school and the material used during optional classes that they may conduct, inclusion of the principle of strengthening the family and marriage in the program of cooperation with social organizations (in November 2019 this was in fact included in the program of Podkarpackie province), and the appointment of a Family Rights Ombudsman at local authority level (in November 2019 such an Ombudsman was in fact appointed by Rawa County). It does not anywhere contain the term “LGBT” or any references to that political movement. At no point does it refer to anyone’s homosexual tendencies or transsexual disorder.

In May 2020, in response to widespread interest in adopting the Charter, the Ordo Iuris Institute published a 61-page compendium of knowledge for pro-family local councilors, social workers and social activists wishing to become involved in implementing measures resulting from adoption of the Charter. The compendium notes as a reference point the Large Family Charter – an initiative that in the years 2011–2013 was accepted at grass roots level by certain local authorities, until finally being recognized by the central government, which in 2014 used legislation to put it into effect at nationwide level. It contained draft local bylaws – a regulation on the appointment of a Family Rights Ombudsman, a resolution on educational vouchers, a resolution on amendments to a program of cooperation with NGOs, as well as a specimen pro-family code of good practice. An appendix to the compendium contained examples of existing pro-family good practices of individual local authorities.

Polish lawyers in defense of life, family, and freedom (interview)

In January 2021 the Ordo Iuris Institute also published the opinions of two renowned constitutional experts, Professor Anna Łabno and Dr. Jacek Zaleśny, in which they affirmed that the Charter was fully consistent with the Polish Constitution. Individual points of the Charter met with the approval of a group of Polish MPs, who in January 2021 launched a parliamentary bill titled “Local Government for the Family.” That bill would have obliged every district-level local authority in Poland to establish a family affairs council and every local government to adopt a pro-family program. However, the center-right Law and Justice party (PiS) that held power in Poland from 2015 to 2023 irretrievably wasted that opportunity, as for over two years it did not allow the bill to be considered by parliamentary committees, until it was automatically dropped when parliament was dissolved.

 

False propaganda against the Charter – alleged “LGBT-free zones” in Poland

Separately from the draft Local Government Charter of Family Rights and without collaboration with the Ordo Iuris Institute, councilors of 50 other Polish local authorities adopted legally non-binding declarations of objection to “LGBT ideology.” These resolutions indicated three examples of measures that councilors saw as manifestations of such ideology: 1) the unlawful appointment of so-called “LGBT lighthouse keepers” in schools; 2) the exploitation of schools by moral corruptors seeking the early sexualization of Polish children in line with so-called WHO standards; 3) the application of administrative pressure for the enforcement of political correctness (so-called homo-propaganda) in certain professions. As a counter to these unlawful behaviors, councilors proposed affirmation of lawful behavior – respect for the right for children to be brought up in accordance with their parents’ beliefs.

Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, exercising his statutory powers, filed complaints against nine sample resolutions on “LGBT ideology” (not the Charter) with the Supreme Administrative Court, which in October 2023 gave a final ruling that these resolutions had no validity at any of the three levels of local administration.

A campaign by Polish gay activist Bart Staszewski who took pictures of signs that he himself had installed at the entrance to some of the towns and cities that had adopted resolutions stating their administration would remain free of LGBT ideology. On the signs were the words “LGBT-free zone” in Polish, English, French and Russian.

 

The Local Government Charter of Family Rights, unlike the resolutions on “LGBT ideology,” has never been successfully challenged in the administrative courts. No court or official body, whether in Poland or at EU level, has ever found any term of the Charter to be unlawful. The propaganda lies and the irrational fear among some local councilors of the imagined threat of loss of EU funds have led to the Charter also being repealed “on the rebound” by as many as 21 local authorities (in 2021: Biała Podlaska, Przasnysz, Stary Sącz; in 2022: Krzynowłoga Mała; up to October 2023: Nowy Sącz, Radzyń County, Żabno, Nowy Targ County, Opole Lubelskie, Limanowa County, Niedźwiedź, Rawa County, Bukowina Tatrzańska, Tarnów County, Radzyń Podlaski, Białobrzegi County, Kobyłka, Przysucha County, Radom County, Wieluń County, Przasnysz County).

 

The Charter is no obstacle to foreign aid – the case of Wilamowice

In fact there has been no case where any local authority’s upholding of the Local Government Charter of Family Rights has caused it to lose EU funding. LGBT+ activist Bartosz Staszewski himself confirmed in 2020 that his campaign was targeted against “‘anti-ideology’ positions, and not the Local Government Charter of Family Rights.

There is however a known case of the reverse situation, where adoption of the positive Charter in place of a resolution referring negatively to “LGBT circles” led to the retention of subsidies from the Norwegian Funds. In 2019 the town council of Wilamowice passed a resolution on support for the constitutional model of a family based on traditional values. It contained a passage objecting to “the undermining of the idea of a family model by representatives of LGBT circles.” A year later, Wilamowice took part in a competition to obtain financing from the Norwegian Funds for a project to build a Museum of Vilamovian Culture. The grant was to total 7.3 million zloty. The director of the Financial Mechanism Office, Henning Stirø, noted that the town council’s resolution supposedly contained “explicit language about LGBT” and thus announced that payments would be suspended. The Norwegians gave the town an ultimatum: either the council repealed the disputed resolution, or it would officially give up the chance to receive assistance from the Norwegian Funds.

Help was offered by the Ordo Iuris Institute, which suggested that in place of the resolution mentioning “LGBT circles,” the town should adopt the Local Government Charter of Family Rights. At a meeting with minister Waldemar Buda, Norwegian foreign ministry representative Sjura Larsen confirmed that the Charter drawn up by Ordo Iuris was acceptable to the donors. In 2021, Wilamowice town council repealed the old resolution and adopted the Charter. By that means, Wilamowice regained access to the suspended funding.

 

Conclusion

The Local Government Charter of Family Rights contains nothing that does not result directly from the provisions of the Polish Constitution relating to the protection of marriage, the family, and children (articles 18, 47, 48, 72). Therefore, provided that Polish local authorities do not give in to pressure and baseless accusations, the Charter remains an effective means of affirming those values at local government level, without any risk of losing EU funding.