When Krasnik and other towns adopted “free of L.G.B.T.” resolutions in early 2019, few people paid attention to what was widely seen as a political stunt by a governing party that delights in offending its foes’ “political correctness.”

But that changed early last year when Bartosz Staszewski, an L.G.B.T. activist from Warsaw began visiting towns that had vowed to banish “L.G.B.T. ideology.” Mr. Staszewski, a documentary filmmaker, took with him an official-looking yellow sign on which was written in four languages: “L.G.B.T.-FREE ZONE.” He put the fake sign next to each town’s real sign, taking photographs that he posted on social media.

The action, which he called “performance art,” provoked outrage across Europe as it put a spotlight on what Mr. Staszewski described in an interview in Warsaw as a push by conservatives to “turn basic human rights into an ideology.”

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused Mr. Staszewski of generating a fake scandal over “no-go zones” that don’t exist. Several towns, supported by a right-wing outfit partly funded by the government, have filed defamation suits against the activist over his representation of bans on “ideology” as barring L.G.B.T. people.

But even those who support the measures often seem confused about what it is that they want excluded.

Asked on television whether the region surrounding Krasnik would become Poland’s first L.G.B.T.-free zone, Elzbieta Kruk, a prominent Law and Justice politician, said, “I think Poland is going to be the first area free of L.G.B.T.” She later reversed herself and said the target was “L.G.B.T. ideology.”

For Mr. Wilk, Krasnik’s mayor, the semantic squabbling is a sign that it is time to drop attempts to make the town “free” of anyone or anything.

But Mr. Albiniak, the initiator of the resolution, vowed to resist what he denounced as blackmail by foreigners threatening to withhold funds.

“If I vote to repeal,” he said, “I vote against myself.”

Anatol Magdziarz contributed reporting.

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Japan Court Backs Same-Sex Marriage. Laws Still Block It.

TOKYO — A Japanese court on Wednesday ruled that the country’s failure to recognize same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, a landmark decision that could be an important step toward legalizing the unions across the nation.

The ruling, handed down by a district court in the northern city of Sapporo, came in a civil suit against the Japanese government by three same-sex couples. The lack of recognition of their unions, they said, had unfairly cut them off from services and benefits accorded to married couples, and they sought damages of around $9,000 per person.

The couples argued that the government’s failure to recognize same-sex unions violated the constitutional guarantee of equality under the law and the prohibition against discrimination regardless of sex.

The court agreed, writing in its decision that laws or regulations that deprived gay couples of the legal benefits of marriage constituted “discriminatory treatment without a rational basis.”

almost 80 percent of respondents 60 and under said they supported the unions.

Even the country’s notoriously rigid business community has begun to embrace the notion of marriage equality, marketing products to gay couples and improving protections for employees.

On the individual level, however, many gay people are still hesitant to come out because of fears of discrimination from a society that is infamous for its often intense pressure to conform.

For the plaintiffs, Wednesday morning was an emotional roller coaster. The first headlines about the decision highlighted the court’s rejection of the compensation claims, provoking a moment of deep anxiety, one of the plaintiffs, Ryosuke Kunimi, told a news conference later in the day.

But when he saw the rest of the decision, he said, “I couldn’t stop my tears.”

Same-sex couples have long felt that “discrimination was natural, that there was nothing we could do about it,” he said, adding that the court decision clearly showed “that’s not true.”

The couples filed their suit in February 2019 as part of a broader national campaign to pressure the Japanese government into recognizing same-sex marriage. An additional 10 couples filed similar suits on the same day in three other courts across the country, and another couple later filed a similar suit in the city of Fukuoka. Rulings in those cases are expected later this year.

Wednesday’s ruling is likely to have a positive impact on the outcomes of those cases, Takeharu Kato, one of the lawyers representing the couples, told reporters.

The other suits were argued using nearly identical language to the one heard in Sapporo, he said, adding that “naturally, we will submit the ruling to other courts as evidence.”

In the meantime, the plaintiffs’ legal team plans to appeal the court’s decision to deny compensation, Mr. Kato said, adding that “we want to keep up pressure on the government.”

While the couples said they were pleased by Wednesday’s decision, they voiced caution about the road ahead. The ruling may face legal challenges. Ultimately, they will need Parliament to drop its longstanding opposition.

Campaigners will continue pursuing the case “until the Supreme Court,” said Makiko Terahara, a director of Marriage for All Japan, a nonprofit organization that has taken the lead on the marriage equality cases.

At the same time, she said, the campaign will step up pressure on Parliament “to amend the law to allow same-sex marriage as soon as possible.”

Lawmakers “are obligated to respect the Constitution,” Ms. Terahara added. They “cannot allow the current situation, which is clearly in violation of the Constitution, to continue.”

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Vatican Says Priests Can’t Bless Same-Sex Unions

ROME — The Vatican said on Monday that priests could not bless same-sex unions, calling any such blessing “not licit.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, issued the judgment in response to questions raised by some pastors and parishes that sought to be more welcoming and inclusive of gay couples.

In an explicatory note signed by the prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria, the congregation said that Pope Francis had “given his consent to the decision.”

The ruling said that the church should be welcoming toward gay people, but not their unions. Catholic teaching holds that marriage between a man and woman is part of God’s plan, and since gay unions are not intended to be part of that plan, they cannot be blessed by the church.

should have legal protection, but only in the civil sphere, and he has continued to oppose gay marriage.

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