June 23. 2024. 12:21

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15 governments join EU lawsuit against Orbán’s anti-LGBT law

Fifteen EU governments have joined the European Commission’s lawsuit against Hungary over a controversial anti-LGBTQ law making what civil society groups have described as the largest human rights case in EU legal history.

Officials from the French and German governments and Slovenia confirmed on Thursday (6 April) that they had joined the suit ahead of a midnight deadline.

The legal dispute over the child protection bill, introduced in 2021, is the latest front in the EU’s long-running rule of law dispute with the Hungarian government and the culture wars.

The original objective of the bill was to make the prevention, detection, and punishment of sexual criminal offences against minors more effective. However, late amendments in the Hungarian parliament introduced a ban on minors’ access to any content that “propagates or portrays divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality.”

The law was criticised by human rights groups and international watchdogs as being discriminatory against LGBT people and was described as a “disgrace” by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

In mid-2022, the European Commission referred Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU over the law. The EU executive contends that the bill violates a series of EU single market laws and that the “provisions [of that law] also violate human dignity, freedom of expression and information, the right to respect of private life as well as the right to non-discrimination”.

Belgium was the first to announce its support, quickly joined by Luxembourg and The Netherlands. In the following weeks, the European Parliament and six other Member States announced their support: Portugal, Denmark, Austria, Malta, Spain, and Ireland, followed by Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Greece, France, and Germany.

The European Parliament is also a plaintiff in the case.

“A majority of EU member states has said enough to Viktor Orbán copy-pasting the Kremlin’s anti-LGBTIQ+ ideology. Europe has never been so united and determined on LGBTIQ+ rights. That’s what Orbán has achieved,” said Rémy Bonny, Executive Director of Forbidden Colours, an LGBTIQ+ campaign group hosted by the King Baudouin Foundation.

Italy and Poland, both of which have socially conservative governments, are the most high-profile absentees from the list.

The case has prompted an angry reaction from Orbán’s Fidesz government, which has styled itself as a defender of traditional Christian and social values.

“Education is a national competence, and it is the right of parents to decide on the education of their children,” Justice Minister Judith Varga said earlier this week.

“We will go to the wall if it’s about protecting our children,” Varga said,

During a speech in February, Orbán described what he described as “gender propaganda” as “the greatest threat stalking our children. We want our children to be left alone …. This kind of thing has no place in Hungary, and especially not in our schools.”