Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced this week that his government will hold a referendum on the country's controversial new LGBTQ law. The move comes after the act received heavy criticism from Brussels, EU member states and rights organizations.
Hungarians will have to answer five questions on the bill that would forbid showing gay and trans characters to children under the age of 18. Orbán, who announced the proposed referendum in a Facebook video, called on Hungarians to answer „no” to all five questions that ask the public if they support the "promotion" of content related to sexual orientation to children. "In the past weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary over its child protection law. Hungarian laws do not permit sexual propaganda in kindergartens, schools, on television and in advertisements," Orban said in the video.
The law bans all educational materials and programs for children that are considered to promote homosexuality and gender reassignment.
Hungary’s so-called child protection law has stirred an international scandal. The European Commission launched two infringement procedures against the law, which censors the portrayal of lesbian, gay and trans people on TV and in schools. “This Hungarian bill is a disgrace,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after the law was passed last month. “This bill clearly discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation. It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union: human dignity, equality and respect for human rights.” Leaders of 17 of the EU’s biggest countries also criticized the Hungarian law, arguing it undermined fundamental rights. In an open letter, the politicians reiterated their support for human rights as outlined in Article 2 of the treaties of the European Union.
In response to the bill, 30 embassies and 12 cultural institutes in Hungary expressed their support for the LGBTQI+ community and “their rights to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and freedom from violence.” The announcement came in a joint letter published ahead of the 26th Budapest Pride parade, scheduled for July 24.
Protecting children and Hungary
The Hungarian government argues that the law is meant to protect minors and claims that the EU has launched an attack against Hungary. Hungary is under “continuous attack from Brussels, whatever we decide, European institutions find a way to put some pressure on us and to blackmail us so we change our decisions rather than use national competencies,” Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in an interview with BBC. “We are definitely not going to change our approach” on policy issues that have been criticized as going against the EU’s core values, the foreign minister said. “We are a conservative, Christian Democrat, patriotic government with a very stable background in parliament and the society,” Szijjártó said. This mandate allows very little external interference from outside the country, he added.
The five questions proposed for the referendum would ask Hungarians whether they “support that media programs which influence children’s development shall be aired without restrictions” or whether they are in favor of “minors being shown media content that demonstrates gender reassignment.”
“The future of our children is at stake, so we cannot let Brussels have its way,” said Orbán in the video. The politician has often stressed that the bill is not aimed at violating human rights, it’s about preserving parents' rights to have a say in their children’s education.
Hungarian opposition parties are urging voters to boycott the ballot, saying that it’s only meant to divert attention from the country’s burning issues and the recent scandals of the government. Budapest Mayor, Gergely Karácsony, who is one of the united opposition’s prime ministerial candidates, announced that he would also initiate a referendum on the question of China’s Fudan University opening a campus in Budapest, motorway concessions, and antibody screening to check the efficacy of Russian and Chinese COVID vaccines, widely administered in Hungary.
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