Meanwhile, countries in Southern Europe have become more accepting.

A European-wide research study has found that homophobia is rising in European countries that haven’t legalised same-sex marriage.

The research was conducted between 2002 and 2016, across 30 European countries. For most countries, acceptance of the LGBTQ community rose, but in Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Ukraine it fell.

One of the questions asked in the study was ‘Gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own life as they wish’ and by 2016, people in Hungary, Lithuania and Russia were most likely to disagree with this statement.

Professor Judit Takacs, one of the conductors of the research, told the European Sociological Association conference: “The post-socialist country-group without legal recognition of same-sex unions became less and less tolerant towards gays and lesbians over time.”

However, on a positive note, the research found that acceptance for the LGBTQ community in Southern European countries like Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain had risen to be similar to acceptance levels in Western European countries.

Speaking to Reuters, Judit added: ” I think it is very important that we can unlearn prejudice. It’s a very serious message that you can learn to be … open minded, and you can learn to be intolerant.”

Although the study didn’t conclusively say that same-sex marriage decreased the amount of homophobia in a country, Julit said legilsation could help normalise relationships.

“It highlights the role of the state. It’s a great responsibility of our politicians how they lead us, and what kind of messages they sponsor,” she said.

“You can see how for example, in my country the Orban regime they organize this propaganda message about migrants or against gays and lesbians. And it works.”

One of the Eastern European countries noted in the report was Poland, where a homophobic rhetoric has increased ahead of the elections later this year.

Gazeta Polska, a Polish newspaper which supports the Law and Justice Party, began distributing stickers with ‘LGBT-free zone’ printed on them.

The stickers were eventually stopped by a Warsaw district judge, and some advertisers abandoned the paper over the homophobic stunt. Bloomberg reports that in an editorial, the paper wrote: “LGBT is not a minority, it’s a paradigm which appears to have all the features of a totalitarian ideology.”

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops have accused IKEA of LGBTQ indoctrination, after a Polish branch fired a worker for sharing homophobic Bible verses.

The employee, known only as Tomasz K. posted homophobic Bible verses on the store’s internal intranet after the store requested staff members attend an International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia event.

In a statement, IKEA said they fired Tomasz for “using quotes from the Old Testament about death and blood in the context of what fate should meet homosexual people.”

Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski also claimed that a “rainbow plague” was affecting Poland, comparing LGBTQ equality to Communism.

In a sermon, he said: “Our land is no longer affected by the red plague, which does not mean that there is no new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds. Not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit, neo-Marxist. Not red, but rainbow.”