A Dutch city has severed its longstanding ties with its twin in Poland after the Polish municipality established itself as an official “gay-free zone”.
The city council of Nieuwegein, south of Utrecht, voted almost unanimously to end its friendship with Puławy in eastern Poland.
The municipality 80 miles from Warsaw is one of 100 that have vowed to discourage tolerance and avoid providing financial assistance to NGOs working to promote equal rights.
“LGBT-free zones”, backed by resolutions voted on by local councillors, are said by equality campaigners to cover about a third of Poland.
Following the decision by councillors in Nieuwegein to vote by 26-1 to terminate the relationship, stickers with a rainbow flag were placed on one of the city’s entrance signs to cover up its Polish counterpart’s name.
“Setting the gay-free zones is a serious business and our council has issued a very clear statement that this is not acceptable,” said the Dutch city’s alderman, Marieke Schouten. “We are a rainbow city. And we are both part of Europe, in which we believe that whoever you are, regardless of your orientation, you can be there in public space. It does not include a gay-free zone.”
The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, who secured a new term last weekend, vowed during his election campaign to “defend children from LGBT ideology”. The pledge proved popular among his conservative base and the Catholic church.
In a survey conducted last year, when asked to name the biggest threat to Poland the most popular answer among men under 40 was “the LGBT movement and gender ideology”.
Duda, who is allied with the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) , also vowed to oppose gay marriage or adoption by gay couples, which he described as part of “a foreign ideology”.
The mayor of Nieuwegein, Frans Backhuijs, had expressed his concerns about developments in a letter to Puławy in March but did not receive a response.
Bożena Krygier, the president of Puławy city council, told the Dutch broadcaster RTL Nederland: “Poland is Poland with its own identity, its own history and its own ideas. This is why we believe that partner municipalities should not interfere with our resolutions.”
Relations between the two cities had already been in the deep freeze since 2015 after more than 21 years of official twinning.
The motion backed by the councillors this week formally proposed to “unfriend” the two municipalities and terminate all contacts.
“We therefore hope that the people concerned, who belong to the LGBTI community in Poland, feel supported by us,” Schouten said.