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Orban, EU Leaders Clash Over Hungary's Controversial LGBT Law

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the media as he arrives on the first day of the EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels on June 24.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a group of leaders from the European Union have clashed over Hungary's new law banning the sharing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) content with minors.

Ahead of the two-day summit starting on June 24, leaders from 17 of the bloc's 27 members signed a letter deploring any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying that "respect and tolerance are at the core of the European project."

While the letter didn't explicitly mention Hungary, it coincides with Europe-wide criticism of the new law following its approval by Hungary's parliament last week.

The proposed legal changes, which must still be approved by Hungary's president, ban the "display and promotion of homosexuality" or gender change to minors in schools, films, or advertisements.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the law "shameful" and said the EU's executive was considering legal action because it violates the bloc's fundamental values.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo characterized the law -- which was contained in a bill that otherwise penalizes pedophilia -- as "primitive."

"Seventeen countries in the whole of Europe -- east, west, north and south -- are very clear that this is going too far," he said in reference to the joint letter.

Upon his arrival in Brussels for the summit, Orban fought back at his critics, saying the law wasn't against homosexuality, but about letting parents decide exclusively how they wish to sexually educate their children.

When asked if he would revoke the bill, the conservative Hungarian leader dismissed the criticism and said the law was "done."

EU leaders were due to discuss the matter behind closed doors during the summit, with some expressing harsh words for Orban.

"It is my intention, on this point, to bring Hungary to its knees. They have to realize they are either a member of the European Union, and so a member of the community of shared values that we are.... Or get out," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, said the Hungarian law further stigmatizes homosexuals.

The clash with the EU is the latest for Orban, who presents himself as a defender of what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism to bolster support from his base.

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.

The Hungarian bill has also triggered a spat between Hungary and Germany over rainbow lights during the Euro 2020 tournament.

UEFA rejected a request by local politicians for Munich's soccer stadium to be lit up in rainbow colors for the match between the two countries on June 23 in protest of the Hungarian legislation.

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter nonetheless put up rainbow-colored flags at the city’s town hall and illuminated other locations in the Bavarian city.

In response to what he called the "provocative news" in Munich, Gabor Kubatov, who is a deputy head of Orban's ruling Fidesz party and president of Hungary's biggest club, Ferencvaros, called on Hungarian clubs to illuminate their stadiums in national colors.

With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters
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