Official says Polish 'LGBT-free zones' have no place in EU

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses the plenary during her first State of the Union speech at the European Parliament in Brus...

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses the plenary during her first State of the Union speech at the European Parliament in Brus...

BRUSSELS (AP) — A top European Union official strongly denounced the stigmatization of LGBT people by authorities in Poland, saying on Wednesday that “LGBT-free zones” that have been declared in parts of the country have no place in the EU.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in her first State of the Union address, said that “LGBT-free zones,” are “humanity-free zones.”

"They have no place in our Union,” von der Leyen said, adding that the commission would soon put forward a strategy to strengthen LGBT rights in Europe.

She did not mention Poland by name, but did not need to.

About one-third of Poles now live in communities that have passed resolutions declaring their opposition to the promotion of LGBT rights. The resolutions carry no binding legal powers, but they are seen by critics as discriminatory. Most were approved in the conservative eastern and southern areas of Poland.

In one such example, a resolution passed last year by the legislature of Malopolska, the region surrounding the Polish city of Krakow, expressed “firm opposition to the emerging public activities aimed at promoting the ideology of LGBT movements.”

The resolution said such activities “interfere with the social order” and were “oriented at the annihilation of values shaped by the centuries-old heritage of Christianity.”

Similar assertions are often expressed at the highest levels of government in Poland and by the powerful Catholic church.

Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the right-wing Law and Justice party that has governed Poland since 2015, recently called the LGBT rights movement “a threat to the very foundations of our civilization.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda won reelection in July after a campaign in which he called the LGBT movement an “ideology” more dangerous than communism.

In her European Parliament address on Wednesday, von der Leyen countered such rhetoric.

“I will not rest when it comes to building a union of equality,” von der Leyen said. “A Union where you can be who you are and love who you want – without fear of recrimination or discrimination.”

“Because being yourself is not your ideology,” she said. "It’s your identity. And no one can ever take it away."