On the second of August the first humanistic marriage ceremony of two people of the same sex was held in Poland. Under the auspices of the Polish Association of Rationalists, two women living together as long-time partners, with the company of family and friends, succeeded in showing their devotion and love to the public. The two women also had a second ceremony which took place in the Reformed Catholic Church, which does not require partners to be of different sexes. During the humanistic ceremony one of the partners, Katarzyna Formela, stated: “Since the beginning of our relationship we were seeking to formalise our relations, to show through marriage that we are a family. Through the marriage, we wanted to underline a change that happened when we decided to be together. It is a very important change in our lives, and we would like to show this to others, so we are perceived as a family and not only — like earlier — as separate persons. The humanistic marriage, preceding the religious one, gave us such an opportunity today. Our will is that we are treated as a regular married couple.”
The first humanistic marriage was taken in 2007. Mariusz Agnosiewicz, the president of the Polish Association of Rationalists, states that the idea was to bring the possibility of a marriage ceremony to atheists and non-religious people who feel the need for it. In his opinion, “the strength of Catholicism lies amongst other things, but people need ceremonies, not Catholic beliefs.”
The candidates first meet with the representatives of the association so they can figure it out what values and ideas are at stake. The Humanist Manifesto 2000, available on the website of the association, among many things, stresses the importance of individual ethical growth based on tolerance and respect.
Asked about the feelings that he had leading his first marriage ceremony, Agnosiewicz said: “It was beautiful, some people had tears in their eyes. Even sceptics where charmed. From later ceremonies, I especially recall the ‘bicycle marriage’ in the university gardens. The young couple came to know each other while biking, and their marriage ceremony was preceded by a bicycle trip around Warsaw to places important to them. Instead of a traditional suit, the bridegroom wore a bicycle outfit, and the bribe was gliding on her bike in a wedding gown.”
According to article 18 of the Polish constitution, marriage is defined as a relationship between a man and a woman, which is under the protection of the Polish state. In addition, the Civil Code of Family and Care also defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
Samuel Nowak, the Culture for Tolerance Foundation president and organiser of the Krakow Gay and Lesbian Culture Festival, supports the idea of legalisation of homosexual relationships: “We don’t see the reason why same-sex relationships can’t have the same rights as heterosexual relationships. It is in the Polish state?s interest to raise the quality of life of its citizens, but it is not the job of the administration to say with whom adults should unite. The state is obliged to take care of heterosexual as well as homosexual couples. Otherwise we have the privilege of the former, although there is no justification for such.”
The point that Nowak makes about the administration not interfering with the private affairs of its citizens finds a bitter conclusion in recent news from Gazeta Wyborcza. On the 25th of August the newspaper wrote about the Polish Registry Office, which lost a court case with Marzena K., who asked to receive a certificate stating that she is single, and which the office workers refused to provide.
In order to get married in Poland, a person has to present a document stating that he or she is single, which can be acquired in the Polish Registry Office. Such documents can be provided if a person intends to get married to a person of the opposite sex, in accordance with Polish law. But if a person from Poland wants to enter a civil partnership, not marriage, with a German citizen of the same sex in Germany, where such partnerships are legal, that person is also obliged to present a document stating that he or she is single, based on a German law from 2001.
That is why Marzena K. applied for the certificate from the Polish Registry Office, which she needed in order to conclude her civil relationship with another woman in Germany. But because it was a partnership and not a marriage, the office workers refused to issue such a certificate.
Gazeta Wyborcza informs that in reference to the law in Germany from 2001, in 2002 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland gave a special disposition that in mentioned cases the Polish Registry Office should give a certificate which states that a person is single, not adding that the certificate is for marriage purposes.
For unknown reasons the office workers would not do so. Wyborcza quotes Robert Biedron, chief of the Campaign Against Homophobia, who speculates about the hypothetical reasons why the office workers kept refusing: “They are afraid that someone may lay a claim against them. Or maybe they don’t accept such relationships personally and try not to allow them.”
Surely the case shows that the debate and struggle between different attitudes to homosexual relationships will continue in Poland.