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French town severs ties with ‘tainted’ twin city in Poland after it declares itself ‘LGBT free’

Emma Powys Maurice February 18, 2020
LGBT free zone stickers

"LGBT-free zone" stickers distributed by a Polish conservative newspaper, Gazeta Polska. (GPtygodnik/ Twitter)

The French town of Saint-Jean-de-Braye has broken its partnership with its sister city of Tuchów in Poland after the latter declared itself an “LGBT-free zone”.

A recent upswing in anti-LGBT+ sentiment in Poland has resulted in more than 80 municipal or local governments proclaiming themselves to be “free from LGBTI ideology”, a move strongly condemned by the European Parliament.

Local authorities in the LGBT-free zones pledge to refrain from acts that encourage tolerance and must avoid providing financial assistance to NGOs working to promote equal rights.

The town of Tuchów signed this pledge in May, saying that they wanted to defend themselves against “radicals … who attack freedom of speech, childhood innocence, the authority of family and school and the freedom of businesspeople”.

In response, last week the municipal council of Saint-Jean-de-Braye voted unanimously to cut ties with Tuchów, saying that the oath that united the two towns was now “tainted”.

Representatives said in a statement: “France is committed to combating human rights violations based on sexual orientation. We cannot accept that the ties that unite our two cities by a twinning oath be tainted. We condemn the position taken by our twin city of Tuchów.”

We immediately realised the gravity of this position, telling ourselves that history, alas, was repeating itself.

Deputy mayor Colette Martin-Chabbert told France3: “Even if we knew that the government party was relaying this homophobia, we were shocked to discover that the city of Tuchów had voted for the resolution, like a large number of municipalities in the south east of Poland.

“We immediately realised the gravity of this position, telling ourselves that history, alas, was repeating itself. We are well placed to know it, in Loiret, with the memory of three internment camps.

“In Jargeau [a Nazi internment camp], there were gypsies and homosexuals. We cannot accept that decisions like these are taken, in defiance of human rights.”

Local LGBT+ activists believe this the first time a municipality in the region has taken such a measure, and said they are “delighted” with the decision.

“Excluding an entire population from a territory has not been seen for decades. Twinning must also bring values, which cannot be only economic or cultural,” noted Christophe Desportes-Guilloux, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Action Group of Loiret.

On hearing the news, Tuchów’s mayor expressed regret at the Saint-Jean-de-Braye council’s decision, but simply blamed it on campaigning ahead of local elections being held there.

More: Europe, France, Law and Justice (PiS), LGBT-free zones, Poland

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