Last week a Polish friend living in the UK confided in me that her eighteen year old daughter had come out as a lesbian. She was quite upset about this and suggested, hoped maybe, that it might be just another teenage fad.
I suggested to her that, actually, the love of a woman for a woman can be a beautiful thing and that, if she is happy, it doesn’t matter what other people think or say. I also said that, for a girl from a small town in Poland to come out was an act of courage for which I admire her. The following story illustrates why.
Joanna Duda and Anu Czerwinski want to marry. This is not possible in their native Poland where legislation on civil partnerships is long overdue but even liberal politicians lack the courage to take on the Bishops who, despite having no personal experience of marriage, like to lecture the rest of society on the subject. Fortunately Anu and Joanna live in France and the Registrar in Paris is happy to marry them. The catch is that they have to produce a certificate from Poland stating that they are not married already, a bit like the Certificate of Non-Impediment that UK citizens need to produce if they are marrying abroad. The Registrar in Gdansk is refusing to issue a certificate to Joanna saying that marriage is between a man and a woman and that Polish law forbids same sex marriage. This is clearly irrelevant. Joanna is not marrying in Poland but in France and she is fully entitled to have this certificate. Without the certificate, however, there can no wedding. The French Registrar is sympathetic but her hands are tied.
Joanna is applying for French citizenship which offers her a way round the problem. She can also go to court. These things take time though. The wedding they planned and looked forward to will have to be postponed, by a year or more and all because of a bigot in an Gdansk office who thinks he has the right to dictate to others how to live their lives.
Homophobia is alive and well in Poland. This is the country that was severely criticised by the European Court of Human Rights for banning a Gay Pride March in Warsaw on the spurious grounds that it would cause disruption to traffic. As the Court laconically noted other, larger, marches didn’t seem to be expected to cause traffic chaos. And when they do take place there are invariably noisy and aggressive counter demonstrations brandishing banners about paedophilia. Poland can be a lonely place to be lesbian or gay.
In the light of things like this I can only say again that I admire Agnieszka for the step she has taken and wish her happiness in her new relationship.