Robert Biedron: Poland Elects First Openly Gay Mayor

Robert Biedron is Poland's first openly gay mayor. The Polish lawmaker is pictured here being sworn in during the first session of the Polish parliament in Warsaw Nov. 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Peter Andrews)
Robert Biedron is Poland’s first openly gay mayor. The Polish lawmaker is pictured here being sworn in during the first session of the Polish parliament in Warsaw Nov. 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Peter Andrews)

Robert Biedron already made history once in Poland by becoming the first openly homosexual lawmaker in parliament in 2011. On Monday, he celebrated another first, becoming the country’s first openly gay mayor.

The 38-year-old’s political successes are a marker of how quickly this deeply conservative and Catholic country has changed in the decade since it joined the European Union. Back then, in 2004, gay rights marches were still being banned in Warsaw and homosexuality was treated as a huge taboo. Since then a growing acceptance of gays and lesbians has arrived hand-in-hand with a flourishing economy.

“I see how fast Polish society has learned its lesson of tolerance,” Biedron told The Associated Press in an interview two days before he was elected Sunday to be mayor of Slupsk, a city near the Baltic Sea in northern Poland. “So I am very optimistic and happy with Polish society — and proud.”

But it’s not just him. In what the Polish media are calling “the Biedron effect,” a record number of candidates also came out publicly before the local elections, which took place in two rounds over the last two weeks.

None of the others won seats, but gay rights activists are still hugely encouraged by the willingness of more and more public figures to come out. And their poor showing is partly because they were mostly young, first -time candidates with left wing parties, which saw little support.

SOURCE: The Associated Press