In Surprise Move, Poland’s Conservative Party to Introduce Civil Unions

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday September 7, 2012

Poland's gay couples may be able to enter into a civil union in the not to distant future.

Officials from the country's center-right part, Platforma Obywatelska, announced that they plan to introduce a legislation that would legalize civil union relationships for same-sex couples, On Top Magazine reported.

Although it is not marriage equality, the announcement is seen as a move in the right direction by gay rights advocates, who were pleasantly surprised by the turnaround. The Central European country allows gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military and transgender people can change their legal gender. Additionally, gay men are allowed to donate blood (unlike in the United States). The country's anti-discrimination laws guarantees equality based on "any reason," which has been argued to cover sexual orientation (again, ahead of the United States).

A 2010 study published in a Polish newspaper, however, showed that the vast majority of Polish citizens are strongly against marriage equality and same-sex couples adopting children. The poll found that 79 percent of Poles oppose gay marriage and only 16 percent support it. When it came to same-sex adoption, 93 percent were against it and 5 percent backed the issue.

Perhaps views have changed since the poll was taken. In late 2011, Poland elected its first openly gay member of parliament, Robert Biedron, and its first transgender member of parliament, Anna Grodzka, who is also the only transgender member of parliament in the world. (Poland also made headlines when its first permanent rabbi since World War II arrived; he is openly gay.)

The measure's draft is similar to France's PACS and would provide inheritance, pension funds, notary and medical rights to partners. Same-sex couples, however, are not allowed to file joint tax returns and cannot jointly adopt children.

The PO is the country's largest party. Gay Star News points out that political commentators were surprised by the party's decision to introduce the gay-friendly bill as it opposed a similar draft bill introduced by left wing parties last year.

The news site also notes that Poland's president and prime minister have not said they are against the measure but the bill may be hard to move forward as members within the PO do not support it, including Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin.

Those against the legislation have called it a "pseudo marriage" bill and say it will devalue traditional marriage.