Brussels has commenced two separate infringement procedures against Hungary on Thursday over its highly controversial new law which many believe is aimed against sexual minorities and a disclaimer imposed by authorities on a Hungarian children’s book with LGBT+ content.
The EC sent Hungary letters of formal notice, the first step of an infringement procedure, saying that the two cases concerned violations of European Union rules and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“Equality and the respect for dignity and human rights are core values of the EU, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. The Commission will use all the instruments at their disposal to defend these values”, according to a statement made by the EC on Thursday.
In their statement, the European Commission stated that it has decided to take action against Hungary’s highly controversial ’Child Protection Law’ passed on June 23, 2021, which essentially bans content that promotes and portrays homosexuality and sex reassignment in school education and TV programs for individuals under the age of 18.
The first infringement procedure details in six points how Hungary’s law impacting the LGBT+ community is in breach of the Community acquis. The Commission essentially argues that the law violates the right to freedom of expression and information “…as well as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the e-Commerce Directive.” They also argue that the law infringes on the freedom to provide services and the free movement of goods.
The other infringement procedure concerns the consumer protection authority’s decision regarding the book publisher Labrisz Lesbian Association, requiring it to place a disclaimer on one of their children’s books with LGBTIQ content saying it shows “behavior deviating from traditional gender roles.” According to the Commission, this violates freedom of expression on the part of authors and publishers, and “discriminates on grounds of sexual orientation in an unjustified way.” The move, the EC argues, furthermore breaches the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
Both procedures also raise the objection that Hungary has failed to explain why the exposure of children to LGBTIQ content would be detrimental to their well-being or not in line with the best interests of the child.
Hungary now has two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the EC. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send them a detailed explanation and in a further step, refer them to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
If the Hungarian Parliament decides not to withdraw the law criticized by the Commission – which is almost certain given the developments of recent weeks – and the legislation is referred to the EU Court of Justice, a long legal process that will last for years is likely to begin.
In his regular press briefing, in reference to the contested legislation, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said that the government would not give up the position that sex education is solely up to parents. Gergely Gulyás added that “when Brussels demands equality in sex education it means that we should allow LGBTQ activists into schools and kindergartens.”
He cited the EC’s 2020 LGBTQI strategy as evidence that LGBT rights organizations wanted to send activists to schools and kindergartens. Gulyás said that because the child protection law also pertained to the depiction of heterosexual content, it could just as well be called “heterophobic”.
Asked about the infringement procedures, Gulyás insisted the law was in line with the government’s goals and the interests of children, adding that the EU had nothing to do with the law and arguing that child protection was a national competence.
In the featured photo illustration: EC President Ursula von der Leyen. Photo by Christian Hartmann/EPA/Reuters pool/MTI