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Same-sex relationship discrimination in Poland. Ministry intervention needed

Same-sex relationship discrimination in Poland. Ministry's intervention needed

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
12.03.2024 13:45

Twenty-four NGOs have appealed to the Minister of Finance, Andrzej Domanski, requesting his intervention in matters of discrimination faced by individuals in same-sex relationships.

The NGOs urge Finance Minister Andrzej Domanski to take action against discrimination faced by individuals in same-sex relationships, particularly concerning inheritance laws. Additionally, Equality Minister Katarzyna Kotula has been requested to oversee the situation.

19 years together bound by a notarised contract

Kamila shared her story with a journalist from oko.press. Her poignant experiences, among others, serve as the driving force behind the appeal endorsed by several organisations, including the Lambda Warsaw Association, the Campaign Against Homophobia, and Love Does Not Exclude. Despite being in a 19-year relationship with her partner and having their status notarised, this woman finds herself treated as a stranger by the Polish state following the sudden demise of her beloved.

Kamila and Judyta’s paths crossed in the library during their studies. At the time, Judyta was 23, and Kamila was 21. After graduation, they settled in Wrocław. Over the course of their nearly two-decade relationship, they amassed substantial shared wealth. Kamila shared with oko.press: "She believed we would toil diligently until our forties, and then a more leisurely life would unfold. We planned to save, travel, and perhaps even clip coupons. Together, we invested in a house, built our place in Portugal, owned cars, and accumulated savings. It was all ours."

In June 2022, the life partners formalised their commitment by entering into an agreement with a notary. They granted each other full powers of attorney. Kamila explained: "Our partnership agreement covered various aspects, including inheritance matters, access to medical information, and the division of joint assets." Consequently, Kamila became Judyta's sole heir.

Their next milestone was meant to be a wedding abroad. Kamila lamented: "Observing that many couples were getting married abroad, we considered Portugal, our second home, as the ideal location for our wedding. Unfortunately, our plans did not materialise."

Notarial contracts do not cover matters after the death of a partner

Judyta tragically lost her life in an unfortunate accident while on holiday in Germany in May 2023. The two women eagerly anticipated celebrating Kamila’s birthday together for the 18th time. Judyta ventured out for a walk from their camper van, intending to gather lilacs—a flower that held special significance for Kamila. However, as she attempted to cross a fence, she stumbled and struck her head on the ground. Regrettably, she did not regain consciousness, and after two days, doctors declared her brain dead.

Upon Judyta’s return to Poland, it became evident that the provisions in their notarial contract, which granted them mutual rights to decide on each other’s bodies and funerals, lacked legal enforceability. Under Polish law, the right of burial lies with the spouse or relatives. Unfortunately, Judyta had a strained relationship with her father, who refused to acknowledge her as an individual or recognise her relationship with Kamila. Nevertheless, he unilaterally decided that Judyta would be laid to rest in Opole alongside her mother. Kamila lamented: "He held the legal authority, and as for me? I was a nobody in this distressing situation."

Judyta, an atheist, had expressed her desire for a secular funeral without a priest or prayers. Kamila recounted: "When I informed her family of our wishes, they adamantly rejected the idea." Following the Catholic ceremony, Kamila received a call from Judyta’s father, emphasising that they needed to "settle things." These calls have persisted, occurring on average every week since then.

In her will, Judyta explicitly disinherited her father, making it clear that she did not want him to receive anything. When Kamila presented the notarial document to him, he dismissively remarked, "This piece of paper changes nothing; he’ll simply sue me for a legitimate portion." On November 30, 2023, a hearing took place before the District Court in Wrocław, during which the will was read aloud. The judge did not question its credibility, and Kamila inherited the entire joint estate.

In December 2023, it came to light that Kamila fell into inheritance group III, which encompasses strangers. Consequently, she is obligated to pay a 20% tax on the value of the inherited assets. Had she been part of group I, which includes the deceased's spouses, parents, and children, the tax rate would have been 7%. Kamila expressed her sentiments: "I am not evading my responsibilities, but it baffles me that after 19 years of a joyful and enduring relationship, the Polish state regards me as a stranger." She further emphasised that neither she nor Judyta had ever received any assistance from the Polish state, yet they meticulously fulfilled all their legal and tax obligations.

The Polish state discriminates against its citizens

Kamila and Judyta consistently exercised their right to vote in elections, hoping that one day circumstances would improve and that the state would acknowledge their profound connection. Kamila’s resolve is unwavering: "I want to fight for that—for us and Judyta. Perhaps I’ll never fully come to terms with her passing, but I will at least champion justice on her behalf."

Karolina Gierdal, a lawyer affiliated with the Lambda Warsaw Association, stands firmly by Kamila’s side. In a statement to oko.press, Gierdal underscores that this narrative exemplifies the systemic discrimination faced by same-sex couples under Polish law. She asserts: "Individuals who take proactive steps to legally safeguard their families and assets—such as granting notarial authorisations or specifying inheritance in a will—ultimately find themselves treated as outsiders, compelled to pay the highest possible rates of inheritance and donations tax."

The Lambda Association and other organisations advocating for equality in Poland have issued an open appeal to Finance Minister Andrzej Domański. Their plea seeks to exempt same-sex couples from the burden of paying the highest tax rate until a comprehensive law introducing marriage equality or civil partnerships is enacted. Poland is bound by a December 2023 European Court of Human Rights judgment to implement these changes.

For privacy reasons, the names of Kamila and Judyta have been altered upon their request.

Source: oko.press, lambdawarszawa.org

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