WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland's right-wing ruling party used hostile language Saturday while speaking against rights for LGBT persons, a subject that has risen to prominence in his political campaign ahead of crucial elections in Poland this year.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski spoke to Law and Justice party activists and government members at a convention in Katowice, ahead of both the European Parliament election, slated in Poland for May 26, and of Poland's general election in the fall. The elections will decide whether Law and Justice, which is critical of European Union ways and values, will preserve the control of Poland's parliament it has since 2015.
It was the second time in eight days that Kaczynski used the issue of LGBT rights to rally conservative voters in the predominantly Catholic nation. Commentators said he was also aiming to deflect attention from questions over his involvement in a construction business and from corruption allegations against some ruling party members.
The 69-year-old bachelor, Kaczynski, who is Poland's most powerful politician and a lawmaker, argued that a recent LGBT rights declaration by the opposition Warsaw mayor backs same-sex marriages and adoption rights.
"This is not about tolerance. This is about the affirmation of same-sex unions, about their marriage, and their right to adopt children," Kaczynski said emphatically. "We want to say it clearly. We are saying 'No!,' especially when it concerns children. Stay away from our children!"
Polish law does not allow same-sex marriages.
The Law and Justice government promotes family values and aims to boost the country's birth rate with generous bonuses. The party has also supported the Roman Catholic Church for years.
Kaczynski's words drew irony from the opposition.
The gay leader of the Spring party, Robert Biedron, said on Twitter that Kaczynski "should be referring his 'Stay away from our children!' words to the pedophilia in the Catholic Church."
On Thursday, Catholic church leaders revealed that, according to their records, some 382 clergymen in Poland had abused over 620 minors since 1990.
Tomasz Siemoniak of the pro-EU Civic Platform party said Kaczynski's slogan should be directed at the ruling party's education minister, who has introduced much-criticized changes to the nation's curriculum.
Although his party leads in opinion polls, Kaczynski is pressing his message hard to rally even more conservative supporters. In Poland, voters in larger cities tend to increasingly back the pro-EU opposition. Opinion polls suggest that opposition parties, if they united forces, could win a slight edge over Law and Justice in the elections.