WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish leaders on Monday rejected suggestions that LGBT people are deprived of any of their rights in the country, after an open letter from 50 ambassadors and international representatives cited a need to work for "non-discrimination, tolerance and mutual acceptance."
The ambassadors' appeal, made in an open letter published Sunday, comes as an increasingly visible LGBT community in Poland has faced a backlash from the right-wing government, many local communities and the Catholic church.
“Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBTI persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment,” the letter said, using the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he agreed that every person deserves respect but that he completely disagreed with the ambassadors' claim that LGBT people were being deprived of that.
“To the dear ambassadors, I can only say that tolerance belongs to Polish DNA," Morawiecki said at a news conference. “Nobody needs to teach us tolerance, because we are a nation that has learned such tolerance for centuries and we have given many testimonies to the history of such tolerance."
Some of Poland's leaders, including the president and lawmakers from the ruling party, have cast the movement for civil rights for LGBT people as a threat to traditional families. President Andrzej Duda won a second term this summer after calling LGBT rights an “ideology” more dangerous than communism.
Meanwhile, dozens of towns in conservative parts of eastern and southern Poland have passed mostly symbolic resolutions declaring themselves to be free from “LGBT ideology." Many of the declarations express the view that young people will be demoralized if confronted by the issue.
“Human Rights are not an ideology — they are universal," U.S. Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher tweeted. "50 Ambassadors and Representatives agree.”
Joachim Brudzinski, deputy head of the ruling Law and Justice party who is now a lawmaker to the European Parliament, shot back at Mosbacher on Monday, saying “we in Poland also agree."
“Therefore, we are waiting with hope for the next letter, this time in defense of murdered Christians, imprisoned #ProLife activists, people dismissed from work and persecuted for quoting the Bible, people subjected to euthanasia against their will,” he wrote on Twitter, along with some other examples of alleged abuse of Christians.
It was not exactly clear what Brudzinski was referring to. Poland is a predominantly Catholic nation where Christians do not face persecution and where abortion is illegal in most cases and euthanasia is outlawed. In one case, however, an IKEA employee in Poland was fired for citing Biblical passages to suggest gays should be killed. The current government has spoken in the employee's defense and a state prosecutor is suing the IKEA manager who fired him.
Brudzinski also waded into the debate about LGBT rights in the summer, saying on Twitter that “Poland without LGBT is most beautiful.” His tweet included an image of Jesus and eggs in a bird nest — a bird family which he described as “realizing God’s plan."
That triggered articles in the Polish liberal press about how homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the animal world — just one of many examples of an outpouring of support in Poland for LGBT people. In Warsaw, for instance, it has become common recently to see rainbow flags hanging from apartments or people carrying rainbow bags.
The ambassadors' letter paid tribute to the work of the LGBT community in Poland as it seeks to raise awareness about the challenges its faces. The rise in hostility has led many to live in anger and fear or even to emigrate from the country.
Many activists say their greatest priority now is to get legislation passed criminalizing hate speech against people based on their sexual identity.
The letter was signed by the ambassadors of the United States, many European countries, including Germany, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, as well as further off nations like Japan and Australia.
It was also signed by representatives in Poland of the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Community of Democracies, which is based in Warsaw.