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Hungarian government writes to Ireland and EU ministers over criticism of anti-LGBT law

Leaders from 17 EU countries condemned the Hungarian law last month.

2.60816049 Activists protest in front of Hungary’s parliament building in Budapest,.

THE HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT has written to Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman defending the country’s new anti-LGBT laws, following criticism from the Irish government and other EU heads of state.

Justice Minister Judit Varga contacted the minister earlier this week, along with several other EU ministers, after several member states rebuked Hungary for introducing so-called child protection laws last month.

A bill approved in the Hungarian parliament last week bans sharing content that “promotes” being gay to children and teenagers, impacting education in schools.

The legal text of the bill sets out that “in order to ensure… the protection of children’s rights, pornography and content that depicts sexuality for its own purposes or that promotes deviation from gender identity, gender reassignment and homosexuality shall not be made available to persons under the age of eighteen”.

Ministers from around Europe, including O’Gorman, hit out at the legislation before it was made law this week. O’Gorman himself described it as “homophobia dressed up as a child protection measure”.

Ahead of an EU Summit in June, the heads of 17 member states signed a letter critical of the law for discriminating based on sexual orientation.

That letter stated that “hate, intolerance and discrimination have no place in our Union. That’s why, today and every day, we stand for diversity and LGBTI equality so that our future generations can grow up in a Europe of equality and respect”.

The letter, signed by the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain, among others, continued: “Respect and tolerance are at the core of the European project.”

In a rebuke, sent to O’Gorman and others on 6 July, the Hungarian government accused those critical of the laws of “grave disrespect” towards the central European country. 

The letter also claimed that the new laws will ensure “more stringent action against paedophile offenders” and that the law was drafted to “protect children”.

It goes on to say that the law enacted by Hungary applies to Hungarians and not other EU Member States. 

“Hungary is a free, sovereign country, which insists on its rights guaranteed in the EU Treaties; therefore, neither the Commission nor any other European body can dictate how Hungarian parents raise their children,” it reads.

“In Hungary, we deem it particularly important to protect our family values and culture. Parents must be able to decide how to raise their children, and no one should be forced or compelled to endure their children receiving sexually explicit content without their clear consent.”

European Parliament

The letter was sent in response to a resolution by the Hungarian parliament – controlled by Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party – which instructed the Justice Minister to relay the government’s anger to her European counterparts. 

2.60816555 Viktor Orban. Source: PA

In that resolution, Orban, said: “The heads of government and other government representatives of many EU Member States, as well as several EU officials, have allowed themselves such harsh and anti-democratic statements in connection with the Child Protection Act adopted by the Hungarian Parliament, which crossed a red line.

The tone and the claims they have made evoke the colonialist instincts of long-lost ages and the disrespectful power declarations of actors who consider themselves superior. Hungary must defend itself against the harsh and anti-democratic political and power attacks by using all available European legal instruments.

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“Hate speech shall also be forbidden when it is directed against Hungary.”

This week, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen called the new laws “a disgrace” during a debate in the European Parliament.

The parliament voted on Wednesday to condemn the Hungarian laws as “a clear breach” of the EU’s principles of equality.

Orban then hit back yesterday, claiming the bill was about “child protection” and noting that, according to the EU Charter, Brussels has no right to interfere in how Hungarian children are raised.

“The European Parliament and European Commission want LGBTQ activists to be admitted to schools and kindergartens, we don’t want that,” he added.

Speaking about the letter, a spokesperson for the Department of Children said: “The Minister has previously stated his view that the laws passed in Hungary are a clear attempt to target and erase visibility and self-expression of LGBTI people in Hungarian society. This is homophobia dressed up as a child protection measure.  

 ”The Minister also notes that Ireland has joined 15 other EU Member States in condemning this law, and yesterday the European Parliament overwhelming passed a resolution condemning the law as a “clear breach of EU values, principles, and law.”

About the author:

Garreth MacNamee and Cónal Thomas

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