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Nobel peace prize winner Lech Walesa shocks Poland with anti-gay remarks

Sunday, March 3, 2013

WARSAW, Poland — Lech Walesa, the Polish democracy icon and Nobel peace prize winner, has sparked outrage in Poland by saying that gays have no right to a prominent role in politics and that as a minority they need to “adjust to smaller things.”

Some commentators are now suggesting that Walesa, the leading figure in Poland’s successful democracy struggle against communism, has irreparably harmed his legacy.

Lech Walesa

Walesa said in a television interview on Friday that he believes gays have no right to sit on the front benches in Parliament and, if represented at all, should sit in the back, “and even behind a wall.”

“They have to know that they are a minority and must adjust to smaller things. And not rise to the greatest heights, the greatest hours, the greatest provocations, spoiling things for the others and taking (what they want) from the majority,” he told the private broadcaster TVN during a discussion of gay rights. “I don’t agree to this and I will never agree to it.”

“A minority should not impose itself on the majority,” Walesa said.

The words have enraged many.

“From a human point of view his language was appalling. It was the statement of a troglodyte,” said Jerzy Wenderlich, a deputy speaker of Parliament with the Democratic Left Alliance.

In some ways the uproar says as much about Poland today as it does about Walesa.

Walesa, Poland’s first democratic-era president, is a deeply conservative Roman Catholic and a father of eight. But, the democracy he helped create in 1989 from the turmoil of strikes and other protests has had a profound social transformation in recent years.

Poland is a traditionally conservative and Catholic society that long suppressed discussions of gay rights. The topic was essentially taboo under communism, and in the early years of democracy. The Polish church, which has a strong role in political life, still holds that homosexuality is deviant, while gays and lesbians say they face discrimination and even violence.

However, much has changed. A watershed moment came in 2011 when a new progressive and anti-clerical party — Palikot’s Movement — entered Parliament for the first time. Taking seats for the party were Anna Grodzka, a transsexual, and Robert Biedron, who is openly gay. These were all historic firsts.

The two have been in the public eye while lawmakers have debated a civil partnership law. Though lawmakers have recently struck down proposals, the discussions continue. A new campaign was just launched to fight taboos.

Some predicted the consequences for Walesa could be serious.

A national committee devoted to fighting hate speech and other crimes filed a complaint with prosecutors on Sunday in Gdansk, Walesa’s home city, accusing him of promoting “propaganda of hate against a sexual minority.”

Walesa is no longer active in Polish political life, though he is often interviewed and asked his opinion on current affairs. Much of his time is spent giving lectures internationally on his role in fighting communism and on issues of peace and democracy.

“Now nobody in their right mind will invite Lech Walesa as a moral authority, knowing what he said,” Wenderlich said.

Monika Olejnik, a leading television journalist, said Walesa “disgraced the Nobel prize.”

Some, however, said they were not surprised by Walesa’s words.

“I am surprised that only now we are noticing that Walesa is not in control of what he says and that he has views that are far from being politically correct,” said Adam Bielan, a conservative Polish member of the European Parliament.

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32 more reader comments:

  1. Why does this shock anyone??? He is a staunch Catholic.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 10:48am
  2. Wow…

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 10:51am
  3. who cares his religion i grew up in catholic schools the point is he needs to understand that all were created equal

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 10:51am
  4. Poland is just another province of the Vatican.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 10:52am
  5. How is that shocking? Poland isn’t known for its promotion of LGBT equality.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 10:54am
  6. old homophobic people should just die off they’re such a waste of space spreading hate just die already bigots

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 10:57am
  7. it is shocking coming from Walesa.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 10:57am
  8. His work with Solidarnost changed Poland. He is not attributing this extreme view to his religion (that I have found). Very surprising to see such vehement language toward anyone

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:00am
  9. To all bigots over the age of 40. The baby boom is over. You are all irrelevant. Now die.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:01am
  10. the man is a conservative Catholic, and there is nothing shocking about that.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:02am
  11. well fuck him then

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:03am
  12. What’s polish for ‘fuck you, you miserable fuck’?

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:13am
  13. he has been a homophobe for years

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:17am
  14. @ Jim Lovitch : ‘ Pierdol sie glupi huju’.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:25am
  15. He’s so Eighties: why is he still getting airtime?

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:40am
  16. If my memory serves me right, Poland should know better when it comes to see what intolerance and bigotry do. Auschwitz… and the 5 other death houses that killed 90% (3,000,000) of its own people. The Nobel Museum in Stockholm will probably file sanctions on him. Sweden does not fuck around with that kind of petty bigoted talk… especially from a Nobel PEACE Prize winner.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:52am
  17. DBag of the week contender!!!

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:54am
  18. Just because he’s better than Pilsudski doesn’t mean progress should stop with him. He did one good thing, and Poland improved incrementally. Good for him, good for Poland. But one step towards democracy doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Hell, look at what we had running against Obama in the states.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:56am
  19. SAD revelation about someone I previously admired..

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 12:03pm
  20. Well said, Lanea!

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 12:08pm
  21. Not so peaceful anymore?

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 12:10pm
  22. ohhh, whatEVER!

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:13pm
  23. Welp, proves me right that that peace prize is bunk.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:31pm
  24. how quickly he forgets the history of his lineage and the horrific atrocities perpetrated against an entire group of people brought about by a “leaders” marginalization of said group and the subsequent annihilation of a People & it’s culture. Mr. Walesa, you should be ashamed of yourself,

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:36pm
  25. and that is why poland has nothing to do in the eu!!and who was shocked in poland?since almost 90% of people agree with that hater!

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:44pm
  26. i mean- if they allow gay demonstration at all-they send police to “protect” the nazis who are bashing the gays!!!suprised???not really.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 1:48pm
  27. a communist in sheep’s clothing

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:36pm
  28. Open your mouth and stupid comes out.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:12pm
  29. perhaps he has adjusted to having smaller things

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:21pm
  30. I used to have respect for this fool.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 5:35pm
  31. How easy they forget…..and who cares what he thinks???

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 5:45pm
  32. He’s a Catholic conservative, what did you expect, open mindedness and inclusion? I have observed very sadly, that people who have been traditionally oppressed do not seem to develop empathy for other victims of similar situations, but behave as their opressors did toward them.

    Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 5:50pm