On June 15, 2021, the government of Hungary passed a law that prohibits the promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment among minors. The law came into force despite opposition from the European Union (EU). It was approved by 157 out of 199 MPs.
“Protecting the rights of our children”
Originally, it was a law aimed at fighting pedophilia. Indeed, the objective was to strengthen the sanctions on child abuse. The proposed measures were, for example, to create a database of people who had been accused, blocking their access to certain public places and banning them from certain professions.
However, it was in early June 2021 that everything changed. Indeed, some members of the ruling far-right Fidesz party tabled amendments to ban the promotion of homosexuality or sex change. Following the approval, the amendments were introduced in the following laws: “Law on the protection of children, law on the advertising activity of companies, law on the media, law on the protection of the family and law on public education”.
In other words, once the law comes into effect, companies will no longer be able to advertise the “promotion” of homosexuality. Any media content presenting homosexuality and/or gender reassignment will be categorized as “inappropriate for children”.
With respect to educational institutions, educational programs on sexual development will no longer be permitted. Also, products promoting homosexuality will be prohibited within 200 meters of schools, churches, and other places of worship. Outside the zone, products will be available but must be sealed and hidden.
When the law came into effect, a bookstore in Budapest was fined 700 euros (approximately $1009.41 Canadian) for selling a book about same-sex families.
The law is ambiguous. It associates pedophilia with homosexuality. However, in order to defend the bill, the Prime Minister explained that “pornography and contents that represent sexuality or promote the deviation of gender identity, sex change, and homosexuality” should not be accessible in order to protect children. So here it is a question that in both cases, it represents a deviation that can affect the development of the child.
A battle against the European Union
At the EU summit on June 24, 2021, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the law “was not aimed at homosexuals” but rather “protects the rights of children, guarantees the rights of parents and does not apply to the sexual orientation of people over 18 years. The opposition Christian Democratic People’s Party boycotted the vote, with the exception of Jobbik, a far-right anti-Orban formation.
Following this news, tensions rose between Hungary and the EU. Indeed, 17 heads of state denounced the new Hungarian law. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In addition, the law violates EU rules on freedom of expression, free trade, and the provision of services.
The European executive denounces the discriminatory nature of the new law, stating that it is a direct attack on the LGBTQ+ community. Moreover, Brussels accuses them of infringing the rule of law. The French MEP, Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, deplores “an affront to European values”. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the Hungarian law as a “disgrace”.
Infringement proceedings were launched against Hungary on July 15. A letter of formal notice has been sent, a first step that may lead to the EU Court of Justice. Also, financial sanctions can be brought. A period of two months was given to respond to the letter. However, the Hungarian government rejected the criticism and demands of the executive.
In Washington, where President Joe Biden promotes LGBTQ+ rights, a State Department spokeswoman mentioned “the concern of the American authorities for freedom of expression” and considered that the law “establishes restrictions that have no place in a democratic society”.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Budapest. The demonstrators unfurled a rainbow flag in front of the Parliament, the aim being “to castigate the cruel political campaigns of the government”.
A response to criticism
In response to the EU’s infringement proceedings, the Hungarian prime minister has announced that a referendum will be held in Hungary on July 21 on child protection. The Hungarian population will be asked questions. They will have to answer a series of questions. Voters will be asked whether they support “the promotion of sex change treatments for children”, “teaching children about their sexual orientation without parental consent,” or “unrestricted exposure of children to sexual media content”. The president has asked his citizens to answer “no” to the questions that will be asked.
The referendum will be held between January and February 2022, just before the 2022 parliamentary elections. However, European Commission spokesman Tim McPhie said Hungary “has failed to explain how exposure of children to LGBT content would be detrimental to their well-being.
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