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Polish conservatives aghast at Human Rights Court verdict

Strasbourg decision could give additional rights to same-sex couples in Poland.

“The [Court]’s decision seems to be part of a recently fashionable trend in Strasbourg where ideology is seen as more important than a verification of the state of the law in a given country,” writes Tomasz Pietryga, a columnist for the center-right Rzeczpospolita newspaper.

Marek Jurek, a right-wing politician and former speaker of parliament, called the decision “an attack on the Polish family,” and appealed to Lech Kaczynski, the president, to deal with the issue.

Kaczynski is responsible for another Human Rights Court verdict finding that Poland was in the wrong for a decision in 2005 by the city of Warsaw to ban a gay pride parade, when Kaczynski was the city’s mayor.

Kaczynski was then planning on running for the presidency, and was seeking to appeal to Poland’s conservative voters. In a country where more than 90 percent of people are officially Roman Catholic, there is less sympathy for gay rights than in more secular countries like the Czech Republic, where same-sex relationships have been recognized since 2006.

“Poland isn’t all that friendly a country for gays,” said Piotr, a Polish artist who now lives with his partner in Germany and asked that his last name not be used. The two of them traveled to Warsaw in 2005 to protest Kaczynski’s decision, but have no intention of moving back to Poland, despite the Court's ruling. “Life is simply a lot easier for us outside of Poland.”

As for Kozak, the 59-year-old has become a poster-boy for gay rights in Poland.

“Even today, there is a problem with being open about being gay or lesbian,” he told the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper. “We bother a lot of people.”

When asked about the verdict, he said: “I am stunned. Finally Europe is showing us what tolerance looks like. The law should be changed, and maybe I will help with that.”

That is exactly what Poland’s conservatives are afraid of.