Hungary’s relations with the European Union are wavering after multiple leaders confronted Prime Minister Viktor Orbán over Hungary’s new bill placing a ban on, among other things, the “portrayal and promotion of homosexuality.” During an especially personal European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Leaders of the bloc confronted Orbán on the bill, telling him that he went too far, according to Euronews’ correspondent in Brussels. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte even said that Hungary should leave the EU. Orbán continues to defend the bill, an action which could result in the European Commission taking Hungary to court.
Not only has the European Commission written an official letter highlighting which EU laws and fundamental rights the bill would violate if brought into force, but a camp which has grown to 17 EU countries has written a joint letter indirectly condemning the Hungarian government’s actions.
Luxembourg PM Shares Personal Experience with Orbán
“I did not become gay. I am, it is not a choice,” Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told Orbán, “My mother hates that I am gay, I live with that. And now you put this in a law. I respect you, but this is a red line. It is about basic rights, the right to be different.”
Bettel took the discussion to a personal level, telling the Hungarian prime minister that “We have known each other for eight years, but this touches me.”
You see how many young LGBTI commit suicide. This is very bad. This is stigmatizing. Now we have anti-gay posters in France. You make people a minority. This is really terrible in a European country.”
Dutch PM Raises Article 50, Suggests Hungary’s Departure from EU
Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands and an open critic of Orbán, heavily criticized the law, bringing up Article 50 of the EU Treaty, which can be used to trigger a departure from the union.
Hungary’s Justice Minister Judit Varga reacted to Rutte’s statement, posting to Twitter that it is no more than a “political blackmailing series.”
Varga also responded on Facebook, saying that the Dutch prime minister took “an old and arrogant coloniser tone,” and that Rutte had written himself “off the circle of civilised people.”
JM Judit Varga: EU Declaration Contains False Allegations
Judit Varga wrote an op-ed published on About Hungary, which Politico Europe refused to publish. In it, she states that “indisputable declarations” have continuously been made on the death of Hungarian democracy for the past 10 years. “And yet, despite crying wolf over and over again, there has never been any wolf – unfortunately, those crying out also never seem to tire of their deceit.”
No one cares that the declaration signed by several member states contains false allegations and falsifies the merit of the Hungarian law by suppressing essential parts thereof. No one cares to notice that the focus of the law is the protection of children from any kind of sexuality – hence it cannot, by definition, be discriminatory.”
The minister emphasized that the law “does not apply to the lives, sexual identity, or practices of adults over the age of 18,” and that it does not tell adults how they can express themselves. Sexual orientation and gender identity are under strict constitutional protection in Hungary, she added.
Varga argues that the critics of the legislation are biased, and that not only have they prejudged Hungary, but that the action was executed on a “biased political opinion without a previously conducted, impartial inquiry.”
Orbán Continues to Defend Hungarian Bill
While he received support from Poland and some from Slovenia, Viktor Orbán said that he felt under attack from all sides, according to diplomats familiar with the discussion, Politico reports. The Hungarian prime minister pushed back, emphasizing that the purpose of the bill is to protect children and ensure parents’ rights to raise their children without intervention from others.
Prior to the meeting of the European Council, Orbán told reporters that he is a fighter for gay rights, who fought for homosexuals during Hungary’s Soviet era, since, he said, homosexuality was punished back then. “So, I am defending the rights of the homosexual guys, but this law is not about that, it’s about the right of the kids and the parents.”
Telex brought up that Hungarian law eliminated the legality of punishment for consensual relations between homosexual men in 1961.
EU Justice Commissioner Ready to Take Hungary to Court
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders says that the EU is ready to “go to court” if the Hungarian government does not repeal its decision.
Reynders stated that if Hungary stands by its law, the commission is ready to prepare an infringement procedure. If Hungary still does not change its course, the issue will be taking to the Court of Justice of the EU, which will bring a final ruling on Hungary, and potentially impose a financial penalty if the government does not comply.
The commissioner added that the EC can also criticize Hungary in its next report on the rule of law, and it can withhold pandemic recovery funds through the newly enacted rule-of-law budget mechanism.
Hungary’s New Law A Very Complicated Topic
Hungary’s “anti-pedophilia” law does not target LGBTQ people above the age of 18, however it has multiple rulings which critics deem homophobic. So far these have included the restriction of promoting or displaying homosexuality in media intended for those under 18, as well as the “popularization” of homosexuality not being allowed in educational institutions.
The bill’s vocabulary seems ambiguous, and leaves some questions as to what will be deemed a “popularization.” Furthermore, the emphasis of Hungarian officials that it is strictly the right of the parent to educate their children on sexual orientation brings up questions about the rights of those under the age of 18. Some may feel more comfortable speaking about such things with a teacher or guardian if, for example, their parents do not support how they identify.
Featured photo illustration by Balázs Szecsődi/MTI/Prime Minister’s Press Office