WARSAW, Poland -- Polish lawmakers held an emotional debate Thursday on proposed legislation dubbed “Stop LGBT," which would ban pride parades and other public gatherings deemed to “promote” same-sex relationships.
The lawmakers are due to vote Friday on whether to reject or continue work on the proposal, which is a citizen’s legislative initiative that was submitted to parliament by conservative activists.
One of the activists who presented the bill, Krzysztof Kasprzak, opened his speech to lawmakers by describing the LGBT rights movement as a form of totalitarianism. He compared it to Nazism, and accused it of seeking “to overthrow the natural order and introduce terror.”
Włodzimierz Czarzasty, a left-wing deputy speaker of parliament, called it the “most disgusting speech" he had heard in his time in parliament.
A string of opposition lawmakers — on the left, center and even from a conservative group — denounced the proposed legislation as inhumane, homophobic or a violation of the right to assembly guaranteed in Poland's constitution.
It got the praise of lawmakers on the far right, while Piotr Kaleta, a lawmaker with the ruling right-wing conservative party, Law and Justice, held up photos allegedly showing scenes from pride parades that he described as shocking.
“We want normality in Poland,” Kaleta said. “If you accuse us of being in the Middle Ages, then we want to be in these Middle Ages.”
It was not clear if the proposal had the backing to move forward.
Poland's right-wing nationalist government is already involved in a bitter dispute with the European Union over judicial independence and law primacy. So Warsaw might not want to open another front with its EU partners, most of whom strongly oppose any discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people.
Under Polish law, citizens can submit legislative proposals to parliament if they get the signatures of at least 100,000 eligible voters. The Life and Family Foundation, which lobbied successfully for a recent restriction on abortion rights, gathered 140,000 signatures for its “Stop LGBT” proposal.
In a statement Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International said that if adopted as law, the proposal would place the rights of LGBT people in Poland “at greater risk than ever.”
“We call on Polish (lawmakers) to recognize that love is love, and reject this hateful proposal which is discriminatory to its core,” said Amnesty's Nils Muižnieks.
“This initiative may not have originated with the Polish government, but let us be clear: the government’s normalization of hateful rhetoric has created an environment in which people feel empowered to spew bigotry,” Muižnieks added.
In recent years Polish lawmakers, including the president, have lashed out at what they call “LGBT ideology,” presenting it as something that prematurely sexualizes young people and threatens the country’s traditional Roman Catholic values.
Most of the anti-LGBT rhetoric has come during election campaigns, though two years ago dozens of Polish communities passed resolutions declaring themselves to be free of “LGBT ideology” or adopted family charters stressing that families are based on unions of men and women.
But recently, facing the threat of a loss of EU funding, some Polish regions have revoked the anti-LGBT resolutions.