In his many years as an Irish gay rights activist in New York, Brendan Fay has been involved in his fair share of disputes.
There was, for instance, a long-running quarrel with the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, over gay groups not being allowed march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue.
And this week, the veteran campaigner takes on his latest adversary: the President of Poland.
The dispute began last year – on St. Patrick’s Day, of all days – when the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski made a national televised address in Poland about the dangers of the European Union.
In his address, he warned that the European Union could force Poland to adopt same-sex marriages – a very controversial subject in this conservative Catholic country. To make his point, he used footage from Fay’s civil marriage ceremony in Toronto, to his partner Dr. Tom Moulton, in 2003, and showed a picture of their marriage certificate.
After the footage was broadcast, Fay and Dr. Moulton received extensive coverage in the Polish media. One Polish television station even flew them to Warsaw.
But they didn’t get to meet the President to air their grievances in person – something they hope to do this time round.
Fay and Moulton are in Ireland this week, and head to Poland on Friday, where they have been asked to appear on Polish television to discuss the issue.
In a letter sent to the President this past Easter, Fay said: “We were disturbed at the demeaning manner in which images from a beautiful moment in our lives were used.”
He added that he and Moulton were also concerned “at the impact your negative portrait of same sex couples like Tom and I would have on youth as well as parents and families with gay and lesbian children,” and that "the broadcast could promote prejudice and intolerance.”
“We want to meet the President for the same length of time that he demeaned us in his broadcast," Fay told IrishCentral. "That’s all we are asking for.”
He added that he would explain on Polish television that a lot of good had in fact come from the controversy.
“We have gotten a lot of letters over this,” he said. “There were a lot of unintended consequences of using the footage. Polish immigrants from New York and Dublin have gotten in touch with us to offer their support.”
And if the President is too busy this time out, Fay has a Plan B.
“We will return to Poland this year towards the end of June,” he said in his letter to the President, “and would be happy to adjust our schedule.”