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E.U. takes action against Hungary, Poland over anti-LGBTQ measures

Hungary passed a law that bans exposing minors to LGBTQ content in schools, while several Polish towns have declared themselves “LGBT-free” zones.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Protest against latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest
Demonstrators protest against the latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, on June 14, 2021.Marton Monus / Reuters

The European Commission has started legal action against Hungary after the country passed a law that bans sharing content in schools that seemingly endorses gay and transgender issues, the commission announced Thursday. 

“Equality and the respect for dignity and human rights are core values of the E.U.,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Parliament’s president, said in a statement. “The Commission will use all the instruments at its disposal to defend these values.”

The European Union’s executive branch also opened a case against Poland on Thursday after several of the country’s towns declared themselves “LGBT-free” and unwelcoming toward queer people. 

Since Hungary’s law, which appears to conflate LGBTQ issues with pedophilia, passed in the country’s Parliament on June 15, international pressure on the European Union to take action has mounted. At least 17 European countries publicly condemned the measure. Last month, Germany lit the Munich soccer stadium in rainbow colors when the country played Hungary during the Euro 2020 match to demonstrate LGBTQ support.

The Allianz Arena lit in rainbow colors during the Christopher Street Day Pride Week in Munich, on July 10, 2021.Christof Stache / AFP - Getty Images

Critics of Hungary’s new law have compared it to Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda law,” which bans distributing information about LGBTQ issues and relationships to minors.

Hungary’s ultra-nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban said this month he would not overrule the law despite the pressure.

“The European Parliament and the European Commission want that we let LGBTQ activists and organizations into the kindergartens and schools. Hungary does not want that,” Orban posted on his Facebook page, according to Reuters.

Following Thursday’s announcement, Orban joined a state radio program Friday and called the E.U.’s action “legalized hooliganism” and said the “European Commission’s stance is shameful.” 

Luca Dudits, an executive board member at the Hatter Society, Hungary's largest LGBTQ rights organization, said that “the educational setting situation is pretty bad” in the country. “LGBTQIA students feel very unsafe,” Dudits told NBC News. 

In its statement Thursday, the European Commission said Hungary “has failed to explain why the exposure of children to LGBTIQ content” would be “detrimental to their well-being or not in line with the best interests of the child.” The commission said the law violates human rights under European Union law and breaches the bloc’s treaty principles in the free movement of goods across member states.

The European Union’s executive branch also took issue with Hungary’s demand for a disclaimer on a children’s book that includes LGBTQ characters. The move, the commission said in a statement, restricts free expression and the right to nondiscrimination under E.U. law.

Hungary and Poland, both members of the European Union, have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the commission. If they fail to do so, they could be referred to the European Union’s Court of Justice, the commission warned. 

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Reuters contributed.