Monday, March 4, 2013

No, Huffington Post, Lech Walesa's homophobic comments shouldn't have shocked Poland — or anyone who has listened to him for the last 23 years

Walesa in 2009. Photo: MEDEF, Flickr
Yesterday the Huffington Post (and ABC) headlined an AP story by Vanessa Gera: "Lech Walesa Shocks Poland With Anti-Gay Words."
     This was because of the most recent antigay outburst by the Polish embodiment of democratic resistance to Soviet occupation:
     Walesa said in a television interview on Friday that he believes gays have no right to sit on the front benches in Parliament and, if represented at all, should sit in the back, "and even behind a wall."
     "They have to know that they are a minority and must adjust to smaller things. And not rise to the greatest heights, the greatest hours, the greatest provocations, spoiling things for the others and taking (what they want) from the majority," he told the private broadcaster TVN during a discussion of gay rights. "I don't agree to this and I will never agree to it."
     "A minority should not impose itself on the majority," Walesa said.
Actually, in respect of publicly articulated enmity toward gay people, Walesa has plenty of priors. Among them:
  • In 2005, Wales called homosexuality "intrinsically evil", leading to a diplomatically defiant Elton John remark at a concert the next year with Walesa in attendance.
  • In 1990, the L.A. Times reported that members of the gay community in San Francisco urged city leaders to rename the downtown Civic Center's Lech Walesa Street because of an anti-homosexual statement the Polish Solidarity leader allegedly made that spring to delegates at a Solidarity union convention, specifically that he would "eliminate" homosexuals from Polish society if he were elected president.
The alleged remarks caused an uproar in the city's gay community which recently persuaded Supervisor Harry Britt, who is gay, to schedule a hearing on the renaming proposal. Britt has contacted the Polish Embassy in an effort to get a copy of the text of Walesa's speech. The issue will be discussed Aug. 7 by the board's City Service Committee. Ivy Street was renamed Lech Walesa Street in 1986 in honor of the Polish union leader's battle for democracy.
Poland, staunchly Catholic and historically hostile to political equality for its gay citizens, is evolving. Noted Vera:
...However, much has changed. A watershed moment came in 2011 when a new progressive and anti-clerical party – Palikot's Movement – entered Parliament for the first time. Taking seats for the party were Anna Grodzka, a transsexual, and Robert Biedron, who is openly gay. These were all historic firsts.

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