Labour MEP Michael Cashman has claimed that the language used by Polish ministers to oppose equal rights for gay people is a legacy of the previous Conservative government in the UK.

Tens of thousands of teachers marched in Poland at the weekend to protest the proposed new law that would, “prohibit the promotion of homosexuality and other deviance” in schools.

“I am not in the least bit surprised by this,” Mr Cashman told PinkNews.co.uk.

“If you look at the language used by the Poles in their opposition to legal equality, they have been using the language of the Tories, especially the phrase “promoting homosexuality”

“Unfortunately their legacy is alive and well and being exported across Europe.”

Mr Cashman is an MEP for the West Midlands and one of only two out gay European parliamentarians.

He became a household name in the UK when he played the first openly-gay character on BBC drama Eastenders.

Under David Cameron, the Conservatives considered forming a new political grouping in the European Parliament with Poland’s Justice and Law party, who are currently the majority party in that country’s ruling coalition.

In the end the Tories announced they are to form a new group with some other Euro-sceptic parties but not Justice and Law.

The Conservatives have not yet left the mainstream European Peoples Party.

They intend to leave the EPP, the largest right-of-centre group in the Parliament, after the next European elections.

Mr Cashman said that other parties in the ‘new’ grouping, such as the Czech Civic Democrats, “are using a neo-Conservatism that was promoted by the Tories.”

He pointed out that although education remains a matter for member state governments, the EU could intervene on human rights abuses on freedom of association and expression

Roman Giertych is deputy Prime Minister of Poland as well as Education Minister. He leads the ultra-right League of Polish Families, part of Poland’s three-party coalition government.

A Polish Ministry of Education press conference last week was told by junior Education minister Miroslaw Orzechowski that new laws will, “punish whomever promotes homosexuality or any other deviance of a sexual nature in educational establishments.”

He also said that teachers who reveal themselves to be gay, lesbian or bisexual would be sacked.

Teachers union representative, Kalina Grzelak, spoke to the BBC at a large protest march on Saturday.

“We are going to use all the means to protect the freedom and to protect the tolerance in Poland because what we can see is simply intolerance and violation of human rights,” she said.

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights organisation, has written to the Polish President in protest.

“Mere mention of homosexuality does not constitute ‘propaganda,’ though suppression of such speech constitutes censorship. Youth in schools, along with all other Poles, have a fundamental right to information,” wrote Scott Long, director of the LGBT rights programme at HRW.

“We urge your government to discard the proposed legislation and halt policy and regulatory initiatives with comparable homophobic goals.

“We urge you to condemn the statements of Minister Giertych and Deputy Minister Orzechowski and to publicly disavow threats and vilification directed against LGBT people and their allies, and we urge you to affirm that all people should enjoy their rights regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“With its history of struggles for democracy and freedom, Poland should be, within the European Union, a vital voice for justice.”

The homophobic stance of the Polish government is causing tensions with their EU partners.

On a state visit to Ireland last month, the controversial President of Poland Lech Kaczynski said that the promotion of homosexuality would lead to the eventual destruction of the human race.

Kaczynski’s identical twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland.

Both have been known to make homophobic remarks during their political careers.

As the then Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski banned the city’s gay pride parade in 2004.

He also banned the event in 2005 while allowing a homophobic counter-demonstration, the “Parade of Normality.”

In August 2006, when quizzed by the EU over his gay rights record, Prime Minister Kaczynski said he was not a homophobe.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting in Brussels with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said: “Please do not believe in the myth of anti-Semitic, homophobic and xenophobic Poland this is a media thing – it is not real.”