Polands first openly gay and trans lawmakers took front bench seats of the Polish parliament on Wednesday to protest against remarks made by a former president who said gay members should sit “behind a wall” in parliament.
Lech Walesa, the former President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, came under fire for comments made in a TV interview with news channel TVN24 at the weekend, Mr Walesa, who left office in 1995, was questioned about his views on LGBT rights in Poland.
Asked where in parliament he felt gay people could sit, he said: “Homosexuals should even sit behind a wall, and not somewhere at the front,” arguing that they should not be able to “climb all over the majority”.
Poland’s first openly gay MP, Robert Biedron and the country’s first trans MP, Anna Grodzka, took front bench seats in the assembly.
Both are members of the country’s progressive Palikot’s Movement party, and their party leader, Janusz Palikot had arranged for them to sit there, relinquishing his own seat in order for Biedron to sit there, reports Canada.com.
“Lech Walesa is an important symbol for us all and for the whole world,” Biedron told The Associated Press before attending the session. “I respect him and I’d rather he used other words, words of acceptance and of respect for other people.”
The front row of the semi-circular lower chamber of the Polish assembly is normally reserved for party leaders, and prominent lawmakers. Grodzka and Biedron normally sit in the third row. They will sit in the front row for a three-day period in protest.
Grodzka recently made headlines after losing out on a deputy speaker job in a parliamentary vote. She was the first trans MP to be sworn in November 2011
Walesa’s words have caused some to question whether he has permanently damaged his history as a champion of democracy.
The former politician, father of eight and staunch Catholic, continually refused to apologise, and claimed that 95% of Polish people agreed with him.