Polish Magazine’s ‘LGBT-Free Zone’ Stickers Stoke Boycott

(Bloomberg) -- A pro-government newspaper is inflaming Poland’s election-year battle over gay rights by distributing “LGBT-free zone” stickers, even as some retailers boycott the publication.

The publicity stunt by Gazeta Polska -- which coincided with attacks by far-right groups on a LGBT pride march in eastern Poland last weekend -- has already triggered a litany of criticism and comparisons to Nazi-era propaganda calling for areas free from Jews.

Even Poland’s populist government, which has repeatedly used the issue of gay rights to polarize the electorate and boost turnout of its more conservative voters, has sought to distance itself from the latest wave of homophobia.

BP Plc, which has a network of fueling stations in Poland, said it’s blocking sales of the newspaper because “it doesn’t support attitudes displaying aversion to any group of people.” Other companies that have joined the boycott include Canadian fuel retailer Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. and bookstore chain Empik SA.

“LGBT is not a minority, it’s a paradigm which appears to have all the features of a totalitarian ideology,” the newspaper said in an editorial Wednesday. Every copy of the weekly included a “LGBT-free zone” sticker.

The issue of gay rights is dividing Poland ahead of a general election expected in October and underscores the ruling Law & Justice party’s departure from the European Union’s liberal, multicultural mainstream. Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has warned that the advancement of gay rights poses a “grave danger” for families across Europe.

Government supporters have embraced this message, with about 30 cities -- mostly in the poorer eastern regions -- adopting declarations saying they’re “free from LGBT ideology” and against “social engineering foreign to Polish culture and the natural order.” Following the attacks on the gay rally in Bialystok, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned “such hooligan, aggressive behavior.”

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