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Poles are ready to vote for a gay president: What do we know about Robert Biedroń?

Author : News Agency 112.ua

Polls show that in 2020 presidential elections, every fourth Pole is ready to vote for Robert Biedroń, mayor of the Slupsk city, atheist, openly gay, and fighter for the LGBT rights
14:30, 16 April 2018

Read the original text at 112.ua.

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Conservative Poland is not really that conservative as it used to be. Recent social surveys have demonstrated that Poles might close their eyes even on the nontraditional orientation and let a representative of sexual minorities become the head of the state, as long as his political decisions and actions are correct.

In fact, since last November polls have been steadily demonstrating that in 2020 presidential election, every fourth Pole is ready to vote for Robert Biedroń, mayor of the Slupsk city, atheist, openly gay, and fighter for the LGBT rights.

According to a recent IBRIS’s survey, conducted for "Rzeczpospolita", support of the politician, who some ten years ago was considered a freak, and twilight of his career was obvious, has slightly decreased. But he still remains one of the top three leaders in the upcoming presidential race: 11,4% of respondents are ready to vote for Biedroń, his main competitors are the incumbent President Andrzej Duda (33,5%) and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk (33%).

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Robert Biedroń with his lover Krzysztof Śmiszek

Robert Biedroń was born on April 13, 1976, in Rymanów, in the south-east of Poland, was raised in Krosno, Subcarpathian Voivodeship, Poland. His mother belonged to the Solidarity trade union movement, while his father was a member of the Polish Communist Party.

According to Еastbook, parents of the future politician never lived richly, and Leszek Balcerowicz’s reforms (transformation of the country with a planned economy into a country with a market economy) have deprived them of their work.

The head of the family was violent with his wife and four children, so Robert left home early. He has received the following education: PhD in political sciences at Pułtusk Academy of Humanities (2011), completion diploma of Warsaw School for Political Leaders (2010), completion diploma of School of Human Rights at Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (2006), absolutory and then bachelor's degree in economy at Kazimierz Pułaski Technical University of Radom (2001 and 2010), Master's degree in political science at University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (2000), absolutory (certificate of completion of studies but not licentiate nor master's degree) of civil law at Jagiellonian University (1999).

Related: 39 ethnicity-based attacks on Ukrainians reported in Poland in 2017

At the age of 22 he entered the "Social Democrats of the Republic of Poland" (then the "Union of Left-Democrats"), he was connected with this political force until 2005.

In 2002, for the first time, he tried to nominate himself for election (then the people of Warsaw voted for the deputies of the city council). Young Biedroń received only 451 votes. Unsuccessful was also an attempt to get into the Sejm in three years. This is how the ties between Biedroń and the Union of Left Democrats was over. 

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In 2011, just a couple of months before the parliamentary elections, he received an offer to become a candidate for a flamboyant ex-politician of the Civil Platform, businessman Janusz Palikot. This time Biedroń started from Gdynia and received almost 17 thousand votes from local voters, which allowed him to get to the Sejm.

Thus, Robert Biedroń became the first and so far the only deputy of the Sejm who openly declared his homosexuality.

Related: President of Germany signs bill legalizing same-sex marriage

Speaking of Poland, many Ukrainians think about European emancipation, but despite the economic and civilizational changes of the recent decades, this country still remains one of the most conservative in the issue of sexual minorities in the EU (because of its adherence to Catholicism).

Moreover, Poland is one of the EU states, the Constitution of which contains a direct ban on the same-sex marriages. The current president Andrzej Duda has repeatedly stated that such unions would never be legalized.

According to the opinion polls, between 50 and 70% of Poles are negative about gays and homosexual practices, while more than half of respondents would not object to same-sex couples in their city, home or office (although, less than 30% of respondents already to accept to their family a couple of gays or lesbians). Openly confesses to your homosexuality is a big risk for a Polish politician.

Related: Government suggests to legitimize same-sex relations in Ukraine in 2017

But the coming out did not damage Biedroń’s political career. The fact is that he initially did not focus on his orientation, although he did not hide it. According to the politician, he first realized his homosexuality at the age of 15, when he lived in a dormitory. The discovery did not bring him much joy: he was told that it was a "disease," "perversion," "sin," etc. He even thought about suicide, but he resisted.

A trip to Berlin in 1995 saved Biedroń. There he learned about the activities of the NGOs, which dealt with the protection of the rights of sexual minorities and reconciled with himself.

A few years later he also visited London, where he spent a year working together with OutRage human rights organization, and in 2000, together with writer Bartosh Zhuravetsky decided to create an organization to combat stereotypes and prejudices against gays and lesbians in his own country. So, in September 2001 "Campaign against homophobia" was launched, and Robert became its first chairman and has been holding this position for another 8 years.

After that, Biedroń worked for the supervisory boards of other Polish NGOs that monitor the observance of the rights of sexual minorities, published books on this topic, and wrote articles for the largest local publications.

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In 2001, he became one of the few politicians who joined Polish first Equality Parade.

Today, by the way, thousands of participants gather for such events in the country, and many politicians, not only from the left but also from liberal parties, consider their duty to show up there.

So is this the main peculiarity? Of course, being a deputy of the Seim, Biedroń was most visible thanks to his speeches in support of the LGBT rights. But the rapid growth of his current popularity as a politician is connected with another position.

Related: Speaker of Ukrainian Parliament: No same-sex marriages in Ukraine!

His calls for the rights of sexual minorities, as well as in matters of ecology, economics, and culture, was like a voice crying in the desert. Therefore, even before the end of the parliamentary cadence Biedroń decided to change everything and in September 2014 announced his desire to participate in the election of the Slupsk mayor.

At first, neither his supporters nor opponents understood him, because he had nothing to do with Slupsk, the city suffered from huge debts, and in general, there was nothing remarkable about it. The victory of Biedroń was unlikely, but he won. Later it became clear that the main desire of the politician was to influence something and see the results of his efforts.

Under the leadership of Biedroń, Slupsk managed to stop the growth rate of debt, to limit spending on the administrative apparatus, to redirect money to primary and secondary education.

"We stopped buying bottled water at the Town Hall - yes, these are rather symbolic savings, about 20 thousand zlotys annually, given the 500 million budget. But people saw that I started saving myself," the politician says in an interview with KYKY.

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In addition, an inventory of municipal houses was carried out in the city, more than a hundred empty apartments were identified, and some of them were immediately repaired and distributed among those who have the right to communal housing. 

Biedroń also decided to cancel the debts on the rent of those who had them at the beginning of 2016, and he also forbade to sell unhealthy food at the city schools.

Related: Ukrainian authorities "encourage" aggression against LGBT - Amnesty International

The attention of the whole country was attracted by Biedroń’s extraordinary decisions. For example, he refused to hang a portrait of the Pope in the Town Hall (the Pope is a just like a saint for the Poles), made the traditional communication with people on the street, sitting on a red couch, did not let in the circus with trained animals, etc.

In addition, Biedroń attracts people with his criticism of the ruling party "Rights and Justice", the incumbent President Andrzej Duda. He calls not to stop European integration, to protect civil rights and social guarantees, to accept refugees from Syria and countries of the Middle East in Poland.

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The case of Biedroń-politician is not his orientation and struggle for the rights of sexual minorities. "I am just a boy from Krosno, who is often swimming against the tide, a leader who can lead a dialogue and unite people. The son, brother, colleague, and finally Krzysztof's partner (politician’s lover –Ed.), a man who respects nature, looks sympathetically at the destiny of animals. A politician who loves Poland, who is focused on the sustainable development of a modern honest state that provides equal opportunities for all, supporting education and culture, ensuring security and development. But, first of all, I will always be myself, Robert Biedroń,"  the politician writes on his official website.

Related: Polish police discover three paintings considered lost during WWII

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