Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lech Walesa Avoids Hate Crime Charge After Inane Anti-Gay Rant; San Francisco Supervisor Considering Introducing Legislation Renaming Lech Walesa Street After Gay Activist Tom Waddell

In Poland, prosecutors will not be pressing hate charges against Lech Walesa after his comments that gay MPs should “sit at the back of parliament.” Renata Klonowska, head of the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Gdańsk - the city where Walesa led the historic 1980s Solidarity strikes - told the PAP news agency on Wednesday that they would not be pursuing the case, after Ryszard Nowak, director of the National Committee for the Defence Against Sects and Violence brought the matter to their attention, claiming Walesa had "promoted hatred against sexual minorities." Klonowska said, "I have watched the speech by Lech Walesa for signs of an offence,” adding that investigators have studied his outburst under articles 256 and 257 of Poland's Penal Code, which outlaws incitement to hatred "based on national, ethnic, racial, religious or lack of religious beliefs.” The prosecutor noted that both articles 256 and 257 do not mention hatred against those of a different sexual orientation. She said that Ryszard Nowak has the right to appeal the decision. Lech Walesa, a former president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize winner, caused uproar when he told the TVN 24 news station that gay politicians should “sit at the back of parliament”, or even “behind a wall”, should not have important posts within parliament and gay pride marches should take place on the outskirts of cities and not in the city centre. “They know they are a minority,” said Walesa, a devout Roman Catholic, and should be given rights in accordance with their numbers in society, he claimed. Lech Walesa's son, member of the European Parliament Jaroslaw Walesa, said his father's comments were “harmful” and “typical of the older generation in Poland”

Meanwhile, a San Francisco supervisor said Wednesday that she is considering introducing legislation at next week's board meeting to change the name of a street after its namesake, a Polish politician, made anti-gay remarks earlier this month. Supervisor Jane Kim said she is seeking to rename Lech Walesa Street, a small alleyway located between Grove and Hayes streets and Van Ness Avenue and Polk Street. Kim, whose district includes Lech Walesa Street, said she is considering renaming the street after Tom Waddell, a gay activist, or reverting back to the alleyway's previous name of Ivy Street. The Tom Waddell Health Center, which includes a transgender clinic, is located on Lech Walesa Street. Waddell worked at the clinic and also created the Gay Olympics, later renamed the Gay Games, Kim said. He contracted AIDS in the 1980s and passed away years later, she said. Kim said she wants to conduct outreach to the LGBT community on the potential name change. "I want to reach out and make sure that's the appropriate person, or if people want to see it just go back to the original name," she said. The name change issue comes as another San Francisco supervisor is seeking to rename another landmark after a gay icon. Supervisor David Campos is seeking to put a charter amendment on the November ballot to rename San Francisco International Airport after Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was slain along with Mayor George Moscone by former Supervisor Dan White at City Hall in 1978.

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