Warsaw rally highlights east-west divide on gay rights

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Warsaw rally highlights east-west divide on gay rights

16.07.2010 @ 17:31 CETEUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Europride 2010 organisers expect up to 40,000 people to turn up in Warsaw on Saturday (17 July) in an event highlighting the east-west divide on gay rights in the EU and in the European Parliament.Head organiser Tomasz Baczkowski told EUobserver that Polish authorities have lent support to the march in order to avoid a "scandal," despite strongly-conservative feeling in the ruling Civic Platform party.Warsaw Pride 2009: equal treatment of gay people is a "fundamental" EU right (Photo: apeirophilia)"We have good co-operation with the police and we have guarantees that our parade will be safe. The Polish police and the government, even if they are homophobic, are afraid of an international scandal. What would happen if a stone, or an egg, hit the British minister? It would be a scandal," he said, referring to the British junior minister for police, Nick Herbert, who will be top speaker at the final rally in Constitution Square in the city centre."It's the first time such an event is happening in the former Communist space. It's symbolic that an event of this scale is moving eastward," Juris Lavrikovs, a spokesman for the Brussels branch of the International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA), said.A recent ILGA survey noted that Cyprus, Latvia and Poland extend the fewest legal rights to gay people out of all the EU members. Countries further east, such as Belarus and Moldova, scored even worse."If two people get married in Belgium and then they move to, say, Lithuania, they won't have the same rights. How can it be that in the EU, if you simply move home, you can be deprived of your rights?" Mr Lavrokis added.The European Commission is not getting involved in Europride 2010 in contrast to its behind-the-scenes backing for a more problematic event in Vilnius in May, which faced a potential court ban and threats of violence.Matthew Newman, a spokesman for EU fundamental rights commissioner Viviane Reding, noted that Brussels has no legal mandate to push EU countries to, for example, recognise gay civil unions. But EU members who fall foul of the spirit of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which in its Article 21 prohibits discrimination on grounds of "sexual orientation," can be considered "less European" than their peers."If you're not going along with what we all agreed on, then you're not European in the sense of not reflecting those values," he said.At least one MEP, Austrian Green Ulrike Lunacek, will also speak at the Constitution Square rally. But Europride's Mr Baczkowski said the east-west divide on gay rights runs through the European Parliament in Brussels as well."Nick Herbert is important because he's from the Conservative Party. He's openly gay and his party is in a coalition with the PiS party, so his presence is highly political," the Polish activist said, referring to Poland's right-wing opposition party, which last year joined the Tories in creating the European Conservatives and Reformist's group in the EU assembly. "PiS is really homophobic," he added.PiS earned its reputation when in 2005 its then mayor of Warsaw, the late Lech Kaczynski, banned a pride march. While in power in 2007 its coalition partner's education minister proposed a law against "gay propaganda" in schools, which could have led to gay teachers getting the sack.The party has tried to change its image since joining the Tory-led ECR club.Its leader in Brussels, Michal Kaminski, said he supports civil unions and has "many gay friends" after a video emerged of him using the pejorative word "pedal" (the Polish for "fag"). In the only gay rights-related text to come up in the current parliament, a December 2009 resolution condemning Uganda's decision to sentence gay people to death, one of the only three MEPs who voted against was a Civic Platform rebel - Roza Maria Grafin von Thun und Hohenstein.PiS euro-deputies are liable to slip off-message when dealing with Polish media, however.Konrad Szymanski told Polish daily Rzeczpospolita last July that his party would vote against the Tories on gay marriage and adoption. Tadeusz Cymanski the same month told press that a cartoon about two male penguins who fall in love and raise an egg is "homosexual propaganda" and should be kept out of schools.The ECR and the office of Mr Britton declined to comment when contacted by this website.From: http://euobserver.com/9/30487/?rk=1

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Edited by: costas on 17/07/2010 - 18:49