The European Commission has sent its first official letter to Hungary regarding the government’s ban on, among other things, the “portrayal and promotion of homosexuality” in media, EUObserver reports. Despite 16 European Union national governments issuing a joint statement condemning the law, Hungarian officials are certain that their critics are misinformed. The government’s stance has been made clear: the law does not discriminate against any minority group, its purpose is strictly to protect children.
EU Commission vice-president Thierry Breton and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders wrote to Hungary’s Justice Minister Judit Varga describing the bill as one which appears to be intended to protect children but includes anti-LGBTQ measures.
EU Commission Lists Fundamental Rights Violations
The letter, which can be downloaded in PDF format, emphasizes that the European Union is in complete agreement with the bill’s original objective to protect children against pedophiles, but “what is a legitimate public interest has been used in a way that discriminates against people based on their sex and sexual orientation.”
The provisions of the Bill prohibit any content that propagates or portrays divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality for persons under 18 years. Homosexuality, sex change and divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth are put on the same footing as pornography, and are considered as capable of exerting negative influence on the physical or moral development of minors.”
The letter makes it clear that if it is put into force, some of the bill’s provisions would violate several EU laws as well as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Regarding fundamental rights, the letter brings up a breach on the right to private and family life, the right to freedom of expression and information, and the freedom to conduct a business.
Commission President Posts to Twitter in Hungarian
Thus, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered on her promise to have a letter written to the Hungarian authorities.
Von der Leyen has described the Hungarian bill as a “shame,” saying that it “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of sexual orientation and it goes against the EU’s fundamental value, human dignity, equality, human fundamental rights. We will not compromise on these principles.”
The president even made a Twitter post in Hungarian explaining that it is discriminatory.
European Parliament Raises LGBTQ Flag
The European Parliament has joined the commission in the condemnation of Hungary. In support of the LGBTQ community, the parliament raised the rainbow flag on Wednesday with the support of president David Sassoli.
President Sassoli emphasized that the EU Parliament “has always been very committed to promoting LGBTQI rights.” The flag will be kept on display in front of one of its main entrances on Thursday as well.
Angela Merkel Shares Her Opinion on Hungarian Bill
After multiple German officials voiced their opposition to the new Hungarian law, German Chancellor Angela Merkel shared her views as well in the Bundestag on Wednesday. “It does not fit together with the picture I have of politics,” she said, “that they allow same sex couples to enter into civil unions while restricting their access to information.”
The German chancellor added that the law impacts the freedom of education as well, and it is something which she politically rejects.
Number of EU Members Condemning Hungary Grows
Aside from the EU Commission’s letter, a joint statement has been made by 16 EU countries criticizing the law.
Originally made up of 13 signatories, the letter has now been signed by the leaders of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden.
Hungarian Gov’t Confident It Is Not Violating Human Rights
The Hungarian government is confident that it is not violating any EU laws, and that its new bill is neither homophobic nor discriminatory. Officials also argue that the law’s critics have not read the law.
State secretary for international communications and relations, Zoltán Kovács, made a blog post on About Hungary, explaining to the 16 national governments that they “do not know the European Charter.” Kovács’ post argues that the declaration by the signatories “cites the amendment falsely, leaving out substantive parts of the text.”
The regulation put forward in the law protects children from all forms of sexuality, therefore it cannot be considered discriminative. Hungary’s child protection law prohibits the autotelic display, in the case of children, of not only homosexuality, but also sexuality as a whole. Hence, the regulation is neither homophobic, nor heterophobic.”
The state secretary also drew attention to Article 14 (3) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which guarantees the rights of parents to educate their children on religious, philosophical, and pedagogical convictions.
Head PMO: EU Launched a “Groundless Offensive”
In the government’s most recent press briefing on Thursday, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás backed up the statements of Kovács and the stance of the Hungarian government. Gulyás stated that while adults can live their life however they like, only parents are justified in influencing their children’s sexual education.
The minister also shared the Hungarian government’s official response to the joint statement which the 16 EU governments made against it. The note verbale states that several EU governments have launched a “groundless offensive” against Hungary recently, which Hungary rejects.
The Hungarian justice system is in line with the rights set forth by the European Union, Gulyás said, and is based on the values of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Gulyás Says Heterosexual and Homosexual Propaganda Equally Restricted
Regarding the letter from the Commission, Gulyás said that if someone reads the law, and “does not falsify it like the (16) Signatory countries did, it clearly includes that hetero and homosexual propaganda is equally restricted to children.”
This is why, the minister says, the “regulation is neither homophobic, nor heterophobic,”
The first six pages of the “anti-pedophilia” law
involve legislation regarding the presentation of homosexuality and gender identity. The document makes no mention of heterosexuality but uses the word homosexuality eight times. The law states that it restricts the popularization or presentation of homosexuality in films, advertisements, or TV shows for those under the age of 18.
The law also makes it clear that sexual education in schools cannot involve the “popularization” of homosexuality, sex changes, or genders which are different from those at birth.
Featured photo illustration by MTI/EPA POOL/Stephanie Lecocq