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Lech Walesa, Ex-Polish President, Prompts Emphasis On Gay, Transgender Politicians After Remarks

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The first openly gay Polish lawmaker, Robert Biedron, takes the oath next to the first transsexual Polish deputy, Anna Grodzka (R), both from Palikot's Movement in 2011. | Getty Images

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's first gay and transgender lawmakers will sit on the front bench in Parliament this week in reaction to hostile remarks by former president Lech Walesa.

Polish democracy icon and Nobel peace prize winner Walesa sparked outrage last week by saying that as a minority, gays have no right to a prominent role in politics, need to "adjust to smaller things" and should sit on the back benches, or even outside the chamber. On Monday, he refused to apologize and said he has been misunderstood.

Janusz Palikot, the leader of progressive party Palikot's Movement, reacted by promoting the party's gay lawmaker, Robert Biedron, and transgender lawmaker, Anna Grodzka, to the front row for a three-day session starting Wednesday. In Poland's Parliament, the front row, which is closest to the Speaker and gets the most TV attention, is generally for party leaders and senior lawmakers. The Cabinet sits in a separate section.

Palikot said he will also seek a resolution asking Walesa to "change his manner of speaking."

Walesa has declined an invitation to meet with Biedron.

Walesa's son said he was shocked by his father's words, which "should not have been said."

"Gays, lesbians, the homosexuals, have the right to have a representation and should be" in Parliament, said Jaroslaw Walesa, who is a European Parliament lawmaker.

In the 1980s Walesa led the Solidarity freedom movement that peacefully toppled communism in Poland.

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