Poland elects first openly gay mayor

Mon Dec 1, 2014 9:38am EST
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WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland has elected its first openly gay city mayor, in a result hailed by rights activists as a sign of slowly crumbling taboos in what is still one of Europe's most devoutly Roman Catholic countries.

Polish social attitudes have become increasingly liberal and secular, especially among the younger generation, as the economy has boomed and Poles have traveled more widely since their country joined the European Union a decade ago.

Local media attributed Robert Biedron's victory in Sunday's mayoral election in Slupsk, a city of over 90,000 near the Baltic coast, to hard work and grassroots canvassing among voters he had previously served as their member of parliament.

But the election of Biedron, 38, also shows deeper changes afoot in Poland, said Agata Chaber, head of the Warsaw-based Campaign Against Homophobia non-governmental organization.

"People are slowly ceasing to believe that a gay man or a lesbian is pure evil. Sexual orientation is no longer eclipsing a person's competence," she said.

Biedron, who became the first openly gay member of the Polish parliament in 2011 as part of the liberal Your Move party, won 57 percent of the vote in Slupsk in the second round of municipal elections.

He said his sexual orientation has not been an issue in his campaign. He added he would not use any of the three cars at the mayor's disposal and would instead use a bicycle to get to work.

"It will be a modest mayorship and a modest office, because this city is modest," Biedron was quoted as saying by the state news agency, PAP.

"My dream is to work above political and party divisions for a better future for the city."   Continued...

Robert Biedron at a session of the Polish Parliament in Warsaw November 8, 2011. REUTERS/Peter Andrews