Lithuanian and Polish LGBT+ organizations have criticised the Lithuanian prime minister's idea to nominate Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland's conservative Law and Justice party, for a top state award.
LGBT+ rights organizations say Kaczyński has encouraged discrimination and hatred of queer people.
Vyacheslav Melnyk, executive director of the Warsaw-based Campaign Against Homophobia organisation, said on Thursday he was saddened by Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis' decision to nominate Kaczyński for the Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great decoration.
During the 2019 parliamentary election campaign, Kaczyński “shamelessly used hate speech towards LGBTI people in Poland,” according to Melnyk.
“As a result, it created a pogrom-like atmosphere during the Pride March in Bialystok and even an unsuccessful bomb attack attempt during the March of Equality in Lublin. It goes without saying that talks about restricting the right to peaceful demonstration go against any democratic standards in a European Union member state. It is sad to hear that there are democratic states honouring politicians who ruthlessly use hate speech to score political points,” Melnyk said in a statement.
Vladimir Simonko, the leader of the Lithuanian LGBT+ rights organisation LGL, says “awards of such a level should be presented to people with impeccable reputation”.
“But if that person incites hatred towards a social group, one needs to think ten times whether it's the right time to do that. It’s a hasty move to improve relations with Poland at the expense of a social group,” Simonko told BNS.
“I am offended that a person who is consistently trying to do away with the LGBT community is deemed worthy of a top state award. It's like a spit in the face,” he said.
In addition to homophobia, the government of Kaczyński's Law and Justice party, which has been in power since 2015, has been accused of meddling with the rule of law in Poland and been subject to proposed European Union sanctions.
On Wednesday, the Lithuanian Cabinet of ministers endorsed Skvernelis' proposal to award Kaczyński the Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great.
The prime minister's spokesman Tomas Beržinskas refrained to comment on the statements from Lithuanian and Polish LGBT+ organisations, only saying that Kaczyński was presented for the award because of his efforts to strenthen Lithuanian-Polish relations.
“I would only remind you that Kaczyński is nominated for undoubted merits to strengthening bilateral relations between Lithuania and Poland, the long-standing friendship between our two nations, as well as for long-standing support to the integration of Lithuania and the whole Baltic region into Western structures in the areas of military and energy security,” he said.
Poland is holding general elections this week. Skvernelis said earlier that the decoration initiative had nothing to do with the upcoming vote.