Robert Biedron broke barriers in Poland in 2011 when he became the first openly gay parliamentarian. Now, Biedron is the country’s first openly gay mayor, something that seemed to have no effect on getting elected.
“There is no reason to think that Mr. Biedron’s private life was an advantage, but it looks like it wasn’t a disadvantage either,” sociologist and political commentator Jaroslav Flis said. “Sexual orientation didn’t matter for the voters of Slupsk.”
Though the Roman Catholic Church has most of the political power in Poland, and Slupsk, a city of 97,000, is conservative, Biedron said the country is on a road of change.
“Poland is not the most progressive European country, of course, on this issue,” Biedron said. “There is a lot of conservatism and homophobia and prejudice. But Poland is also on the track to change. The lesson of tolerance is being learned, and Polish society is changing.”
Marisa Kurc, editor of the Polish gay advocacy magazine Replika, asked gay candidates to come out just before the 2011 elections, but none did. This year, almost 20 did by Election Day.
Until last year, the Parliament never openly discussed even basic laws for gay citizens such as civil partnerships. However, now Biedron is hopeful for change.
“I see how fast Polish society has learned its lesson of tolerance,” Biedron said. “So I am very optimistic and happy with Polish society and proud.”