Will same-sex partnerships be made legal in Catholic Poland?

09-08-2003

The Vatican is currently running a controversial campaign against gay marriages. It says that gay relationships should in no way be placed on the same level as marriage... nor should they receive legal recognition. The issue of same-sex marriages is particularly charged in Poland at the moment - leftwing lawmakers are currently trying to legalize gay and lesbian partnerships. Gay rights campaigners have welcomed the moves. But the proposal has stirred a huge amount of controversy in conservative circles linked to the powerful Roman Catholic Church.

"I feel a normal member of society. I pay taxes - I'm absolutely OK. The only thing which I really want is to be treated as a normal member of all of society."

Kasia is 30 year old, and has several University degrees framed on the wall of her cosy bed-sit. Despite the pressures of a high profile job in Warsaw that earns her twice the national average, she also has to deal with the constraints of a society based on strong traditional values preached by the Roman Catholic Church. Kasia, who is in a same-sex relationship, is just one of thousands of lesbians and gay men whose lifestyle is surrounded by a veil of secrecy.

"I don't tell, and probably they don't want to know. But I think that it could be very difficult for other people to understand it and accept it."

Kasia doesn't want to be on the losing side of things, so she continues to keep her sexual orientation a secret from family and friends. She is scared, though, that she might get fired if someone found out. She even feels a bit uneasy when her live-in lover kisses her in a public show of affection.

"I think it's easier to be a lesbian than a gay guy in Poland. One month ago I met a woman. She's older than me. Maybe she should think more about the fact that she doesn't want to show that she's with me, but she does. We walk together, sometimes we kiss each other in the street, we always hold hands."

A new bill looks to narrow the gap by granting gays and lesbians the right to have registered partnerships. In the run-up to parliamentary elections two years ago, the left wing spoke of equal rights for the silent homosexual community. Gay activists say it hasn't lived up to its promise, presumably because it was afraid of upsetting the powerful church. Nevertheless, Kasia believes the time is ripe to introduce such a bill in Parliament.

"For me the most important thing is to settle all things connected, for instance, with material things. For instance, if we are a couple we can share everything, we can buy a flat and it will be something, which will be ours. I'm afraid that in this country it will be very difficult to achieve it, mostly because of tradition in our country connected very deeply and strongly with our Catholic church."

Meanwhile, Catholic journalist Krzysztof Sielicki says that 71 per cent of Poles trust the teachings of the church. Registered partnerships for gays and lesbians could be a hard pill to swallow for them.

"There is concern regarding the possibility of the introduction of registered partnership because this brings about a change in culture. That is why the majority of Poles agrees with the church's position that it is against God's will to discriminate against gays and lesbians, but registered partnership could pose a threat for social peace of mind."

Observers say that the chances of the bill becoming law are minimal, considering Poland's prevailing public attitudes. For Kasia and her live-in lover, it means they will need to carry on with their closet lives.

09-08-2003