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Hungarian Parliament Approves Referendum On LGBT Issues

People march across the Freedom Bridge over the River Danube in downtown Budapest during a gay pride parade in Budapest in July.
People march across the Freedom Bridge over the River Danube in downtown Budapest during a gay pride parade in Budapest in July.

Hungary's parliament has passed a resolution authorizing the government to hold a national referendum on LGBT issues, putting the right-wing ruling party further at odds with the European Union and activists who view laws passed earlier this year as discriminatory.

Lawmakers from Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party on November 30 approved four referendum questions related to sex-education programs in schools and the presentation of sexual content in the media.

"The Hungarian government proposes that citizens should have a chance to express their stance on the issues of gender propaganda," Deputy Minister Balazs Orban told parliament.

"We are committed. We believe that we...have to say no to LGBT propaganda in schools carried out with the help of NGOs and media, without parental consent."

Prime Minister Orban has pushed for a referendum after the government passed a series of laws in June that the European Commission and members of the LGBT community view as an attack on the rights of LGBT people by stigmatizing sexual minorities and stifling discourse on sexual orientation.

The laws, which were added to legislation strengthening penalties for crimes of pedophilia, sets limits on schools' teaching about homosexuality and transgender issues as well as the depiction of LGBT content in the media.

Orban says the LGBT-related measures aim to protect children and families and do not target adults.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive, launched two separate legal proceedings against Hungary's government over what it called infringements on LGBT rights.

The referendum questions will ask whether voters support sexual-orientation lessons for minors in public education without parental consent as well as whether they back the "promotion" of gender-reassignment treatment for minors.

Voters will also be asked whether they support "unrestricted sexual media content for minors that affects their development" and the "display of gender-sensitive media content to minors."

Based on the parliamentary vote, the referendum can be held alongside national elections scheduled for the spring in which Orban and his Fidesz party are expected to face stiff competition for the first time in nearly a decade.

The government argues that holding the referendum the same day as parliamentary elections would save money, but critics say the timing is designed to shore up Orban's conservative base.

Critics say Fidesz has stepped up its anti-LGBT campaign as part of an ongoing drive to depict itself as the guardian of Christian values against Western liberalism that also included blocking migrants from transiting Hungary and closing down privately-owned liberal media institutions.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Hungarian Service, AP, and Reuters
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