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Unlike U.S. Supreme Court, Polish High Court Rules Against Antigay Business

Print shop

While the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple, Poland’s Supreme Court, has ruled against a business owner who wouldn’t print posters for an LGBT group.

The Polish ruling, released today, upheld a decision by the Regional Court in Lodz, which ruled that “the principle of equality before the law meant the printer did not have the right to withhold services from the LGBT Business Forum,” the Associated Press reports. The printer, who was not identified by name in the AP report, had said he did not wish to “promote” LGBT rights.

Zbigniew Ziobro, Poland’s justice minister and attorney general, had brought the printer’s case to the Supreme Court, and he denounced the ruling. “The Supreme Court has stood on the side of state violence in the service of the ideology of homosexual activists,” he said, according to the AP.

The ruling came despite the widespread homophobia in Poland, which is heavily Roman Catholic and has few legal protections for LGBT citizens. It also came at a time when other European Union countries are worried about judicial independence in Poland, where a law that takes effect next month will give the conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, greater control over selection of judges. Because of this, “it's not clear if the court will be as free in the future to make rulings against positions supported by the government,” the AP reports.

The U.S. ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission didn’t create a blanket right to discriminate against LGBT people, as activists had feared it might, but the justices did rule that the commission had failed to give appropriate consideration to baker Jack Phillips’s religious beliefs when finding him in violation of the state’s antidiscrimination law. The court sent the case back to the commission.

Jaroslaw Jaruga, a lawyer with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, saw similarities between the Polish and U.S. cases. He said the Polish court ruled against denying service because of a customer’s sexual orientation or other characteristic, but allowed that the nature of the service might create legitimate grounds for refusal if it violates the provider’s freedom of conscience.

“Therefore, any such refusal should be considered individually,” he said. “As a result, sometimes freedom of conscience and religion will be a legitimate reason for the refusal to perform the service, and at other times may constitute a manifestation of unauthorized discrimination.”

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