EU leaders insist discrimination will not be tolerated as Hungary enacts LGBT law

BRUSSELS (AP) – Several European Union leaders insisted on Thursday that discrimination must not be tolerated in the bloc of 27 countries, setting the stage for a rocky summit on new legislation in Hungary that would ban showing content on LGBT issues for children.

The law was signed by President János Áder on Wednesday after Hungary’s parliament passed the bill last week. Widely condemned by human rights groups, it prohibits the sharing of content about homosexuality or gender reassignment to people under the age of 18 as part of school sex education programs, films or advertisements. .

The government says it will protect children, but critics say it links homosexuality to pedophilia. It will come into force in 15 days.

Speaking on his arrival at the meeting in Brussels, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán ruled out withdrawing the law, insisting it does not target homosexuals. “It’s not about homosexuality, it’s about children and parents,” Orbán said, posing as a protector of homosexuals.

“I am a freedom fighter in the communist regime. Homosexuality was punished and I fought for their freedom and their rights, ”said the hardline nationalist. “I defend the rights of homosexuals but this law does not concern them. “

The issue has shone the spotlight on the EU’s inability to curb “illiberal democracies” among its ranks like Hungary and Poland, whose deeply conservative, nationalist and anti-migrant governments have flouted democratic norms and values. of the block for years.

It also took center stage at Europe’s premier international football tournament, where the continent’s football governing body, UEFA, rejected host city Munich’s plan to display the colors of the rainbow during a match between Germany and Hungary at the European Championship on Wednesday evening.

This followed the display on June 15 by supporters at the Hungary-Portugal match in Budapest of banners professing anti-LMBTQ sentiments – using the Hungarian abbreviation -. (The Guardian noted that Hungarian fans had previously booed Irish players for kneeling in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before a friendly match on June 8.)

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, said Hungarian law further stigmatizes gay people and should be fought.

“The hardest thing for me was accepting myself when I realized I was in love with this person of my gender,” Bettel said. “It was hard to tell my parents, hard to tell my family. … We have a lot of young people who commit suicide because they do not accept themselves, what they are.

See: Pride month celebrations marred by a plethora of anti-LGBTQ laws, sentiment

In their coordinated messages on Twitter, several European leaders wrote that “hatred, intolerance and discrimination have no place in our Union. That is why, today and every day, we defend LGBTI diversity and equality so that our future generations can grow up in a Europe of equality and respect.

Many attached to their tweets a letter to European Council President Charles Michel, who hosted their summit, as well as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who also participated in the meeting.

“Respect and tolerance are at the heart of the European project. We are committed to continuing this effort, ensuring that future European generations grow up in an atmosphere of equality and respect, ”said the letter, signed by the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain, among others.

Hungary was not mentioned by name, but many of the same leaders signed a letter earlier this week backed by 17 countries calling on the von der Leyen commission, which monitors EU laws, to bring the government back of Budapest before the European Court of Justice on the bill.

The commission has already taken the first step in legal action. On Wednesday, Brussels sent a letter to the Hungarian justice minister asking for “clarifications, explanations and information” on elements of the bill.

He said some provisions appeared to “directly violate the prohibition on discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation” and would put homosexuality, gender reassignment and divergence from personal identity “on the same. foot than pornography ”.

Asked Thursday about the Hungarian bill, Guterres said that “all forms of discrimination are totally unacceptable and obviously any form of discrimination against LGBTQ + people is totally unacceptable”.

Speaking after a meeting with Guterres, European Parliament President David Sassoli said a mechanism making payments to Hungary from a COVID-19 recovery fund conditional on compliance with the rule of law should be activated. “Now is the time for the law to be enforced,” Sassoli said.

At a press conference in Budapest on Thursday, Orbán’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, dismissed criticism of the law and called for its repeal, insisting it complied with the regulations of the EU.

“We don’t think any corrections are necessary, the law is fine as it is. But of course we are ready for any discussion with the committee, ”said Gulyás.

Gulyás said the Hungarian ambassadors sent a message to the foreign ministries of all signatory countries claiming that “the governments of several member states have launched an unfounded attack on Hungary”.

MarketWatch has contributed to this.

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