WARSAW, Poland – Former Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa has been accused of homophobia after saying that gay MPs should sit in the back of Parliament.
His startling remarks, made during a discussion on same-sex civil unions, immediately conjured images of Rosa Parks being ordered to sit at the back of the bus in Alabama.
Walesa, 69, grew increasingly angry during the discussion, according to Polskie Radio, and went on a homophobic rant.
“Homosexuals should sit on the last bench in the plenary hall, or even behind the wall, and not somewhere at the front,” Walesa said.
And it got worse.
“A minority cannot impose itself on the majority. They must know they are a minority and adapt themselves to smaller things,” Walesa said.
The reaction was immediate. Monika Olejnik, a TV journalist in Poland, said Walesa’s comments “disgraced the Nobel Prize.” Others filed complaints against Walesa for making anti-gay statements, and local prosecutors said they will investigate.
Leaders in Poland’s Parliament made a hugely symbolic move in response, promoting the nation’s first gay and transgender lawmakers to sit in the front bench of Parliament this week. Openly gay MP Robert Biedron and transgender MP Anna Grodzka will be front and center at Parliament for a session that begins on Wednesday.
Walesa’s son, Jaroslaw Walesa, said he was unhappy with his dad’s homophobic remarks. The younger Walesa is a member of the European Parliament.
“Gays, lesbians, the homosexuals, have the right to have a representation and should be” in Parliament, Jaroslaw Walesa said.
The elder Walesa is a devout Catholic in a heavily Catholic nation. The Roman Catholic Church, which is homophobic although many of its faithful are not, wields enormous influence over Poland’s political, social and religious life. LGBT activists continue to accuse the Church of anti-gay stances and tamping down discussion of equal rights.
Poland has a mixed record on LGBT rights. On one hand,
Poland allows gays in the military and provide sexual orientation protections in labor laws. But Poland does not recognize same-sex relationships or allow gays to adopt.