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Poland rebuffs
E.U. criticism over homophobia

Poland rebuffs
E.U. criticism over homophobia

Poland has rejected European Parliament criticism of an alleged rise in racism and homophobia, inviting the lawmakers to visit the country before making such accusations, the Reuters news agency reports. The Strasbourg, France-based assembly singled out Poland, where a radical right-wing party joined the conservative government last month, in a resolution condemning a "rise in racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and homophobic intolerance."

"I know Poland a bit better than the European Parliament does, and I have not encountered such behavior," Polish prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said on Thursday. "When such instances do occur, our constitution is ruthless and punishes activities of that sort," PAP news agency quoted him as saying on his way to a European Union summit in Brussels.

European Union lawmakers lashed out at the nationalist League of Polish Families, whose radical youth group has raised eyebrows when pictures were published of its members giving the Nazi salute. A party official has said police should beat gays with batons if they disturb public order with demonstrations. The party has repeatedly denied charges of anti-Semitism.

Authorities in Warsaw banned an annual gay pride march for two years but reluctantly allowed a march this year after protests from E.U. officials and human rights groups. Polish president Lech Kaczynski, who was mayor of Warsaw at the time, called last year's planned march "sexually obscene."

The parliament called on E.U. institutions to monitor closely the situation in Poland, citing worrying events such as a street attack this year on Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich or anti-Semitic remarks aired by ultra-Catholic Radio Maryja. Poland was not the only country that came under parliament's spotlight. Belgium, France, Germany, and Portugal have also seen high-profile racist or xenophobic attacks in recent months.

In related news, the Latvian parliament has defied E.U. laws after refusing to implement antidiscrimination policies to protect people on the basis of sexual orientation. The legislation, stipulated as a basis for the country's membership in the political body, was rejected by lawmakers on Friday after some described homosexuality as a sin. It's the seventh time such legislation has not been approved in the country, which joined the E.U. in May 2004. (The Advocate)

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