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Six 'LGBT-free' towns in Poland lose E.U. funding

Dozens of Polish towns have declared themselves "LGBT-free" since 2019, and now roughly a third of the country's population lives in these municipalities.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Sticker with words  \"LGBT-free zone\" distributed in weekly conservative magazine \"Gazeta Polska\" is pictured in Warsaw,
A sticker with words "LGBT-free zone" distributed in the weekly conservative magazine "Gazeta Polska."Kacper Pempel / Reuters

The European Commission rejected funding for six Polish towns that declared themselves to be "LGBT-free,” a growing local trend where municipalities issue resolutions declaring themselves unwelcoming toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“EU values and fundamental rights must be respected by Member States and state authorities,” European Union Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli wrote in a tweet announcing the rejection.

A European Commission spokesperson told NBC News in an email that the commission would not name the six towns, but said there is “a fundamental principle of equality of treatment that is at the heart of our selection processes.”

The decision means these six undisclosed towns’ applications to “twin” with other European Union cities — similar to “sister cities” in the United States — were rejected. Applications can unlock up to 25,000 euros in funding for conferences and other group-building activities.

“Our treaties ensure that every person in Europe is free to be who they are, live where they like, love who they want and aim as high as they want,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted. “I will continue to push for a #UnionOfEquality.”

The issue of LGBTQ rights has recently divided Poland.

Earlier this month, conservative president Andrzej Duda was re-elected by a razor-thin margin with 51 percent of the vote. Duda campaigned against LGBTQ equality, promising that gays would be prohibited from marrying and that LGBTQ issues would be banned from school curricula.

Other cities in Western Europe have already canceled their “twinning” agreements with Polish “LGBT-free” towns prior to the European Commission’s recent rejection.

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro called the rejection "unlawful," urging for a reversal from the E.U. Commission and arguing that the views of all citizens should be respected by the E.U.

The trend began in March 2019 when small towns passed resolutions declaring themselves free of “LGBT ideology.” Since then, dozens of towns have followed, and now roughly a third of Poland’s population lives in these municipalities.

Poland’s “LGBT-free zone” movement has already caused international waves. Last year, under pressure, Carnegie Hall canceled an event linked to a Polish magazine that first circulated “LGBT-free zone” stickers in its July 2019 issue.

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