LGBT rights groups in Lithuania and other Baltic states condemned the government’s decision to bestow the Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great, the highest state honor, on Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party. Kaczynski is notorious for his virulent comments against the LGBT community in Poland. LGBT groups say he is the source of inspiration for homophobic groups in Poland which have unleashed violence on the community.
According to a Delfi report, acting on the recommendation of Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis of the conservative Party of Order and Justice (PTT), the country’s cabinet endorsed the proposal to confer the award on Kaczynski on October 9. Incidentally, the award came just four days before the general election in Poland that is scheduled for October 13. Lithuanian government sources said the award was conferred on Kaczynski for his efforts in improving Lithuanian-Polish relations.
The Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) condemned the government’s decision and said that “Lithuanian and Polish political leaders [are] seeking to find a common ground through homophobia”.
Vyacheslav Melnyk, executive director of the Campaign Against Homophobia in Warsaw, said that Kaczynski’s homophobic rhetoric had incited a series of violent attacks against LGBT people in Poland, including on pride marches in Bialystok and Lublin. Earlier, in an interview with Peoples Dispatch, Magdalena Pająk, who works with the Equality Parade, (Parada Równości), pointed out that the country’s main television channel, which is controlled by the government, also presents fake information about pride parades and the community in general, and stokes hatred against them.
LGBTQ rights groups and activists in Poland are constantly facing threats from right wing groups, the ruling PiS and sections of the Catholic Church. The PiS has made the campaign against LGBT rights a key part of their election platform.