“This law goes against everything we regard as our common European values,” wrote Michael Roth, the state minister of the Angela Merkel-led federal government.Continue reading
14 European Union member states have made a joint statement condemning the Hungarian government for passing amendments which “discriminate against LGBTIQ people and violate the right to freedom of expression under the pretext of protecting children.” The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Hungary also shared a statement highlighting its issues with the rulings which impact those in the LGBTQ community, but Hungarian officials are certain that their critics are misinformed. Justice Minister Judit Varga says Europe is being controlled by a “liberal steamroller,” while Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó says the accusations are a part of a larger “global fake news campaign,” aimed against Hungary.
Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Latvia all expressed their concern with the new law, later being joined by Italy. Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès said that “the new Hungarian legislation undermines the fundamental values of the Europe we stand for.”
The statement specifically states that it opposes the amendments to the Child Protection Act, Act on Business Advertising Activity, Media Act, Family Protection Act and Public Education Act which prohibit the “portrayal and the promotion of gender identity different from sex at birth, the change of sex and homosexuality” for persons under 18.
These rulings, which make up the portion of the bill impacting Hungary’s LGBTQ community, are what the signatories believe to be a “flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.” They also consider them a violation of the freedom of expression “by limiting the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference by public authority.”
We have a collective responsibility to protect the rights of all EU citizens, and therefore we have a duty to speak out and respond when these rights and values are undermined. We also have a duty to tell our partners when we are deeply convinced that they have taken the wrong path.”
The signatories have called upon the European Commission to use all the tools at its disposal to check whether the law complies with European laws, and if necessary to bring it in front of the European Court of Justice.
The European Commission is already aware of and is acting on the bill put forth by the Hungarian government, which, critics say, places homosexuality and gender identity under one umbrella with pedophilia. President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen commented on Wednesday morning that “this Hungarian bill is a shame.”
The commission president is certain that the bill discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation, “and it goes against all the fundamental values of the European Union.”
This is human dignity, it is equality and it’s the human fundamental rights. So we will not compromise on these principles. I strongly believe in a European Union where you are free to love whom you want. And I believe in a European Union that embraces diversity. This is the foundation of our values”
Von der Leyen has instructed the Commission to write a letter to Hungarian authorities expressing its legal concerns regarding the bill.
Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga reacted to the joint statement, saying that the signatories have not assessed the law in question, and that the statement contains “completely baseless fake news.” She does not consider the law to discriminate against anyone, neither does it impose restrictions on the freedom of expression.
The Hungarian government does not consider the legislation to have anything to do with EU law, Varga says, since constitutional and national identity fall under national competences. She also added that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union declares that providing the cultural and traditional background for a child’s development is a parents’ right, not the state’s.
The minister added that “it is regrettable that Europe is under pressure from a liberal steamroller.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó believes a global fake news campaign has been launched to mislead the general public from “the content of the Hungarian law intended to protect children.”
Szijjártó told journalists outside of a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday that anyone who comes up with a critique of the new law is basing their opinion off this global campaign. He stated that Hungary’s law does not discriminate against any group, referring to the LGBTQ community, and that its only intention is to protect Hungarian children.
The law protects children in a way that it makes it the exclusive right of the parent to educate their kids regarding sexual orientation until the age of 18. So, this law does not say anything about sexual orientation of adults.”
The Hungarian foreign ministry also addressed a statement made by the British Embassy in Hungary, which voiced concern over the law’s impact on Hungary’s LGBTQ community. “The UK stands up for the rights of Rainbow flag people all over the world, and we stand in solidarity with LGBT+ people in Hungary,” the statement reads.
In response, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced that it was “startled” by the statement of the UK, and that it does not agree with the embassy’s opinion.
The Hungarian ministry added that the statement comes from complete misinformation, and that its conception was based on ill-intentioned misinterpretations and fake news.
Featured photo illustration by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI