Poland’s first openly gay and transsexual MPs took seats on the front bench of Parliament yesterday to protest at hostile remarks made by former President Lech Walesa.
Walesa, hero of Poland’s anti-communist struggle in the 1980s, said on Friday that gays belong on the back rows of Parliament, or “even behind the wall”.
His statement sparked outrage among liberal Poles, with some questioning whether the staunch Roman Catholic father of eight and Nobel Peace Prize winner has permanently damaged his legacy as a champion of democracy.
But Walesa said he has always proven himself as a democrat and was misunderstood. He refused to apologise.
Gay rights activist Robert Biedron and Anna Grodzka, who had a man-to-woman sex change, sat in the front row of the assembly. Both belong to the progressive Palikot’s Movement party, and leader Janusz Palikot arranged seats for the pair.
“Lech Walesa is an important symbol for us all,” Biedron said. “I respect him and I’d rather he used other words, words of acceptance and of respect for other people.”