‘Being homosexual is not a choice; being homophobic is’: EU leaders condemn Hungary’s LGBT+ law

Netherlands’ prime minister suggests Budapest activates same clause to leave bloc as UK

Samuel Osborne
Friday 25 June 2021 17:31 BST
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<p>Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has ruled out withdrawing the law and insisted it does not target homosexuals</p>

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has ruled out withdrawing the law and insisted it does not target homosexuals

European Union leaders have denounced Hungary’s prime minister over new legislation in his country that will ban showing content about LGBT issues to children.

The majority of leaders insisted discrimination would not be tolerated in the 27-nation bloc and told Viktor Orban the new Hungarian law goes against the EU’s fundamental values.

"Being homosexual is not a choice; being homophobic is," Belgium’s prime minister, Alexander De Croo, told Mr Orban during the meeting, an EU diplomat told the Associated Press.

The Netherlands’ prime minister, Mark Rutte, launched a virulent attack, suggesting Mr Orban should activate the same clause in the bloc's treaty that Britain used to leave if he is not happy with the EU's principles, another diplomat said.

Hungary’s justice minister, Judit Varga, said on Twitter that Hungary has no intention of leaving the EU. "On the contrary, we want to save it from hypocrites,” she said.

Hosting the summit in Brussels, European Council president Charles Michel recalled that values such as freedom, tolerance and human dignity are at the heart of the EU, another diplomat said. They added that the discussion was "an in-depth and at times even emotional debate".

The law was signed on Wednesday by Hungary’s president, Janos Ader, after Hungary's parliament passed the bill last week.

It prohibits sharing content on homosexuality or sex reassignment to people under 18 in school sex education programs, films or advertisements. The government says it will protect children, but critics say it links homosexuality with paedophilia.

Speaking upon arrival at the meeting in Brussels, Mr Orban ruled out withdrawing the law, insisting it does not target homosexuals.

"It's not about homosexuality, it's about the kids and the parents,” he said. "I am defending the rights of homosexual guys but this law is not about them."

The issue has turned a harsh spotlight on the EU's inability to rein in the "illiberal democracies" among its ranks like Hungary and Poland, whose deeply conservative, nationalist and anti-migrant governments have flouted the bloc's democratic standards and values for years.

Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, said the Hungarian law further stigmatises homosexuals and should be fought.

"The most difficult thing for me was to accept myself when I realised that I was in love with this person of my sex,” he said. "It was hard to say to my parents, hard to say to my family ... we have a lot of young people who do suicide because they do not accept themselves, how they are."

In coordinated messages on Twitter, several EU leaders wrote 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".

Many attached a letter to their tweets addressed to the European Council president, Charles Michel, who hosted their summit, as well as the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, who also took part in the meeting.

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

"We are committed to carry on with this effort, making sure that future European generations grow up in an atmosphere of equality and respect.”

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