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EU Will 'Look Into' Hungary's Controversial Law Banning LGBT Content In Schools


An LGBT protester holds aloft a placard depicting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban waving a scarf in rainbow colours in front of the parliament building in Budapest during a demonstration against legislation seeking to ban lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender content in schools on June 14.

The European Commission says it will study a controversial Hungarian law banning the discussion and dissemination of information in schools that is deemed by authorities to promote homosexuality and gender change.

Critics have slammed the amendment, passed on June 15, as an attack on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

After passage, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said the new legislation "raises concerns" about "freedom of expression" and included restrictions that "have no place in democratic society."

Then, on June 16, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she was "very concerned about the new law in Hungary."

"We are assessing if it breaches relevant EU legislation," she tweeted.

"I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity, not one which hides it from our children. No one should be discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation," von der Leyen added.

A commission spokeswoman, Dana Spinant, had cautioned hours earlier that "we need to base those [decisions] on a thorough reflection on what is actually in that law, and what the problems with that law would be."

Before the bill's approval, the European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli warned that the EU could withhold funding over Hungary's move.

On June 14, thousands of protesters gathered in Budapest to condemn the legislation. It calls for a ban on books, films, and other content that are accessible to children and young people and in which sexuality is depicted other than heterosexuality.

The ban also applies to advertising by banning ads deemed to target people under 18 years of age if they are seen as showing solidarity with gay people.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, which has backed a strongly conservative social agenda, has said that the legislation is needed to protect the "right of children to their gender identity received at birth."

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto defended the new amendment -- to a bill to combat pedophilia -- during a visit to Bratislava on June 16, saying: "No duty is more important than the protection of children. So yes, children must be protected from pedophiles."

During the debate of the bill in parliament on June 15, lawmaker Timea Szabo of the opposition Dialogue party accused Orban and his ruling Fidesz party of trying to "conflate pedophile crimes with people's different sexual identity."

Associations of the LBGT community and human rights advocates have said the law will "trample on the rights of homosexual and transgender youth."

They compared the ban to a discriminatory 2013 Russian law banning so-called "gay propaganda," which is viewed by human rights defenders as a tool of discrimination.

“This is a dark day for [LGBT] rights and for Hungary. Like the infamous Russian 'propaganda law' this new legislation will further stigmatise {LGBT] people and their allies. It will expose people already facing a hostile environment to even greater discrimination," Amnesty International's Hungarian office said on June 15 in a statement after the law was adopted.

"Tagging these amendments to a bill that seeks to crack down on child abuse appears to be a deliberate attempt by the Hungarian government to conflate paedophilia with LGBTI people," it added.

Orban's government has already embedded language in the constitution stating that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. It also has banned adoptions by same-sex couples.

Hungary's government has also retroactively prohibited legal status for transgender people in a move ruled as unconstitutional by the country's Constitutional Court.

With reporting by AFP
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