Lech Walesa of Poland Under Fire for Anti-Gay Comments

Lech Walesa: Gay Lawmakers Should Sit “Behind a Wall”

Lech Walesa: Gay Lawmakers Should Sit “Behind a Wall”

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March 3 2013 1:29 PM

Polish Democracy Icon Lech Walesa Under Fire for Anti-Gay Comments

Lech Walesa is no longer active in Polish politics but his opinion is often sought

Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Who knew one of the world’s most famous democracy advocates was a homophobe? Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa sparked widespread outrage in Poland over the weekend when he said gays don’t have the right to play a prominent role in politics and need to “adjust to smaller things” because they're a minority. In a television interview, Poland's first democratic-era president suggested gays in Parliament should sit behind a wall, reports Reuters. "No minority should climb all over the majority,” Walesa said when he was asked whether gays should sit in Parliament. “Homosexuals should even sit behind a wall, and not somewhere at the front.”

Walesa became famous around the world for his leading role in fighting for freedom and human rights during Poland’s communist era. But now some say his legacy may be forever tarnished by the hate-filled statements, notes the Associated Press. The outrage over the comments made by Walesa, a deeply conservative Roman Catholic, illustrates just how much Poland has changed in recent years. "Now nobody in their right mind will invite Lech Walesa as a moral authority, knowing what he said," said Jerzy Wenderlich, a deputy speaker of Parliament.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.