The European Union has issued a stark warning to Hungary that it must repeal a controversial law banning materials that could be seen as promoting homosexuality or gender change to minors or face the full wrath of the bloc's law.
Speaking to EU lawmakers at a parliamentary session in Strasbourg on July 7, the day the law took effect, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said no issue was "as important as the one that impinges on our values and our identity" and that the law goes against the protection of minorities and respect for human rights.
Hungary's parliament last month passed the legislation, which prohibits the “display or promotion" of homosexuality or gender reassignment in television shows, films, and sexual education programs to kids in schools.
The law sparked immediate condemnation, with critics slamming the law as an attack on the rights of LGBT people, saying it stigmatizes sexual minorities and seeks to stifle discourse on sexual orientation.
Protests against the law took place last month in Budapest, and some EU leaders blasted Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a summit last week.
"Homosexuality is equated with pornography. This legislation uses the protection of children...to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation," von der Leyen told the European Parliament.
Von der Leyen said Hungary would face the full force of EU law if it did not back down, although she did not give details. Such steps could mean a ruling by the European Court of Justice and the freezing of EU funds for Budapest, EU lawmakers say.
"It is a disgrace," she added.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte suggested that Orban should either uphold EU values or pull Hungary out of the 27-member bloc.
Ahead of the summit, leaders from 17 EU 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, its target was thinly veiled.
A group of 13 EU countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Ireland, went even further, condemning Hungary for the legal changes.
Only Poland and Slovenia are said to have supported Orban over the law.
Orban has argued that the law isn't against homosexuality, and his right-wing government, which faces elections next year, insists the law is necessary to ensure that the sexual education of children under 18 is the sole domain of parents.
Orban accused European leaders of acting like “colonialists" in their criticism of the law.
“They want to dictate what laws should take effect in another country. They want to tell us how to live our lives and how to behave,” he said, adding that the criticism was a result of “bad reflexes caused by their European colonialist past.”