When Robert Biedron showed up in this historic city’s main square to lead a rally in his bid to be president, he was bracing for a fight in a region that is a stronghold for a right-wing government that abhors everything he stands for.
“An openly gay, atheist, leftist, anti-coal candidate?” said Biedron, a former small-town mayor who is as charismatic as he is polarizing in his pitch to turn this overwhelmingly Catholic nation leftward. “Who would imagine?” This is a Poland, after all, where government leaders have joined the Catholic church to condemn gay rights as an “attack on children.” In the last year, nearly 100 communities have declared themselves free of “LGBT ideology.” The archbishop of Krakow recently decried a “rainbow plague” and complained of “sinister” environmental activists. In the middle of this battle for tolerance and identity is Biedron, a direct affront to the long, seemingly inextricable link between church and state in Poland that has grown stronger as much of the rest of Europe has become more secular.
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