Councillors in Nowa Dęba – a small town in Poland with around 11,000 residents – have voted to withdraw their pledge to ‘oppose all acts of tolerance’ towards the LGBTQ+ community, making it the first zone in the country to do so. According to Notes from Poland, the town became an ‘LGBTQ+ free zone’ in 2019, making it one of over 100 areas which created similar regulations. However, 10 of 15 local council members voted to reverse the regulations on January 28.
Polish LGBTQ+ activist, Bartosz Staszewski, known for putting up signs outside LGBTQ+ free towns to highlight their intolerance, celebrated the news on Twitter, saying: “Council members of Nowa Dęba decided to withdraw the LGBTQ+ free zone bill they declared in late 2019. That is great!” The country’s LGBTQ+ free zones have been the subject of international criticism, with the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, saying last year that LGBTQ+ free zones do not belong in the EU. US president, Joe Biden, agreed, saying they have ‘no place in the EU or in the world’.
In addition, nearly 350,000 have signed an All Out petition which demands action against the rise in ‘LGBTQ+ free’ zones in Poland. All Out – a global equality organisation – said “hate and violence against LGBTQ+ communities in Poland are escalating” and urge people to ‘show their solidarity’ by signing. Since the creation of the petition, the EU launched the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy, which aims to oppose right-wing regimes of prejudice against queer people after 43% of LGBTQ+ people reported being discriminated against in the last year. EU commission vice-president Vera Jourova said: “We will defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people against those who now have more and more appetite to attack them from this ideological point of view…This belongs to the authoritarian playbook and it does not have a place in the EU.”