Monika Czaplicka Let’s Play Fortune-Teller: Civil Partnership in Poland - European Integration

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Monika Czaplicka Let’s Play Fortune-Teller: Civil Partnership in Poland

On 17th May[1] 2011 the SLD (Polish Social-Democratic Party) announced  that it had prepared a civil partnership act. This is important to know because to date there are almost no legal regulations concerning gay people in Poland. The only act containing the words ‘sexual orientation’ is a law from 2004 prohibiting discrimination at the workplace. This law owes its existence to several circumstances. Firstly, it is due to the fact that Poland joined the EU and had to comply with the acquis communautaire. Secondly, at that time there was a first attempt to pass a Civil Partnership Act in Poland – Senator Maria Szyszkowska wrote a statute which passed the Senate and had a possibility to pass the Sejm (the Lower Chamber of the Parliament) as well. It didn’t because Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, then Marshall of the Sejm, didn’t put it to the vote. Before that, in the year 2000, the SLD tried to get a Cohabitation Act ratified – it didn’t become a law as a result of social discord. The act proposed this year is the third attempt to vote for a Civil Partnership.

The draft of the act

It is important to point out that this act is not a standard Civil Partnership (CP) Act. It, actually, shows more similarity to the French PACS (Pacte civil de solidarité). The main issues of the act are the following:

●        Civil relationships are notarially certified (they are not contracted at  the registry office)

●        The CP can be ended by the termination of the contract, by getting married or upon the death of one of the partners. It can also expire after six months based on the will of both or one of the partners (regardless of the will of the latter)

●        The CP may be signed between same sex couples or different sex couples (this, however, may be changed in the future[2]),

●        Although the partnership agreement does not change the marital status, it does allow changing the family name of the signee

●        The proposed law would apply to all those who legalised their relationship, but they are not spouses of different sexes. For example, same-sex couples who married in the Netherlands will still have the status of CP in Poland.

●        Other provisions will come in force one year after signing the agreement (to reduce fraud). These are (pointing out a few of them): the right to bury a deceased partner, the possibility of taking over the lease of a deceased partner, entitlement to the partner’s pension, the same right of residence for non-EU partners as for spouses, regulation of medical issues (for example transplantation) identical to marriage law.

In the meantime the Supreme Court published an expertise that the draft act presented by SLD was very badly written[3] and shouldn't be proceeded on further.

Chances for adopting the act - politics

The question is whether this act will have a chance of being passed in the next legislative term. If not, then when? Let us play fortune-teller. Once the new Parliament is constituted, there will be far more important legislation to be proceeded than the CP act. Assuming a moderate and realistic scenario in which no unexpected events occur, the Civic Platform (PO) will again win. The latest polls[4] say that PO should obtain around 33%, Law and Justice (PiS) 28%, the social-democrats (SLD) 12%, the Agrarian Party (PSL) 9%, Palikot's Movement (Ruch Palikota) 4%. In that case the score would be: 185 PO MP's, 157 PiS, 67 SLD, 50 PSL (and one from the German minority party, who do not have to pass the 5% threshold). Hoping that maybe Palikot’s Movement will get 5%, it still means that all parties combined and excluding PO and PiS will not be able to pass this act. Without the Civic Platform the case is cold.

As the Civic Platform will have no majority, it will need to seek a coalition, possibly with the social-democrats. Although this is far from obvious, PO voters are closer to the SLD than to PiS. If such a coalition occurs, can we then count on the bill? All optimists should cool off - no, still no chances for the act.

And what do the PO MPs thinks about the draft law? They are not united on this issue – the Prime Minister Donald Tusk believes that we are getting closer to an acceptance of ​​civil union legislation[5] in society. The draft bill has strong support from the former social-democratic MP (currently a member of PO) Bartosz Arłukowicz[6] who is now Secretary of State, plenipotentiary of the Prime Minister for Combating Social Exclusion. Opposing views are held by MPs Jan Gowin, Stefan Niesiolowski and the President of PO,
Tomasz Tomczykiewicz[7], who think this will ruin our tradition. Radoslaw Sikorski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, thinks that it is time to do something about it (and that we should remember that most of French PACS are between different sex partners)[8], Elzbieta Radziszewska, the Minister of Equality, seeks an opportunity for a debate[9]. The President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, said[10] that he is committed to find solutions to make life easier. Unfortunately, as experts note[11], PO is coaxing both to the conservative part of society and to liberals.

For the SLD, which remains very conservative, the existence of the project is an advantage while its passing would be the exact opposite. LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Genderqueer) groups and supporters provide too little political power and are pleased with any gesture of support, such as a willingness to adopt the draft act. T
he SLD will blame the non-realisation of such a law on the Civic Platform whose version why it didn't work will be: there are more urgent laws which need to be adopted - this one is not so important. The ‚LGBTQ-friendly parties’ (like SLD or PO) will continue to deceive gay people.  We allow them to do that because the gay community does not believe in the power of numbers (after all, 2 million voters make a big difference), because we trust  politicians (if social-democrats will not support the draft law, then who will?) and, above all, because so few people are involved in the action - on the level of ngo's or in everyday life.

Just to mark the lack of interest of the social-democratic MPs: at the meeting of the parliamentary subcommittee debating this issue, none of the SLD MPs were present.
PO is also not interested in the act – during the Polish presidency in the European Union the topic of equality has almost been non-existing. The topic of gay rights is a taboo.

It is important to mention the parties, which are not (and almost certainly will not be) in the Parliament, but who support the act. These are: the Green Party[12], the Women's party[13] and the Palikot Movement[14]. The last one is very LGBTQ[15] friendly now, since they chose a transgender person (Anna Grodzka) to be number on their list in Cracow and many other gay people are on their lists (e.g. Robert Biedroń, former president of KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia), is number 1 in Gdansk).

Chances for adopting the act – polls

Same-sex partnerships raise the most extreme emotions: from the low support in 2002 and the end of 2009 up to the high level of support in mid-2005, 2010 and 2011. Even taking into account the differences resulting from comparing studies by different poll centres, different methods and using different methodologies, such differences are puzzling. It is difficult to interpret the results.

In any case, the polls show the existence of groups which are more tolerant towards same-sex couples. These are: people with higher education, young, living in large cities, women, people in senior positions (executive and managerial), belonging to the intelligentsia, having high incomes, participating in religious practices and holding left-wing political views. Personal knowledge of a homosexual person remains an important factor (although this does not influence the support towards adoption by same sex couples). This indicates that coming out remains an important tool for changing homophobic attitudes in society. Observing the transformation that has taken place since the early nineties, we see that the Polish people started becoming more tolerant towards the existence of homosexuals and increasingly accept the postulate of legal approval of partnerships as the law is intended to resolve difficulties. Still, many Poles are afraid to give children up for adoption under the care of same-sex couples. But, observing the trend, it can be assumed that the introduction of civil partnerships for same-sex couples is a matter of the next few years.


The only chance to get the CP act passed is through intense pressure on politicians and the struggle to address this issue as well as educating society. However, given the history of other European countries, we can be confident that the advancement of gay rights is just a matter of time.


Monika Czaplicka mastered Sociology at Warsaw University, came out in June 2008, is a volunteer of the Campaign Against Homophobia and  coordinates She is an ex-member of the Equality Foundation, co-organiser of EuroPride 2010 in Warsaw and initiator of the petition to the Parliament to adopt the civil parntership act.


[1] IDAHO – International Day Against Homophobia and Biphobia;

[2] In Hungary, a civil partnership act both for same sex and opposite sex partners was introduced. However, the Hungarian Constitutional Tribunal declared that benefits for non-same sex partners are too similar to the institution of marriage, so the law is violating the constitutional right to protect marriage. After changing the act (to make it  available only to same sex couples) it was adopted; The Polish State Tribunal also pointed out that issue.

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[4] Survey by Homo Homini, published on 25th of September, attendance around    48%; the poll was made on 24th of September on 1100 adult Poles;,Sondaz-PiS-goni-PO-PJN-na…

[15] Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer