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Hungary's Orban Calls For Referendum Amid Outrage Over Controversial 'Anti-LGBT' Law


Activists walk past a large rainbow-colored heart erected in front of the country's parliament in Budapest on July 8. The activists were protesting against the recently passed law they say discriminates and marginalizes LGBT people.

BUDAPEST -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has announced plans for a referendum on child-protection issues to gauge support for controversial legislation that the European Union and activists see as discriminatory to LGBT people.

In a Facebook video posted on July 21, Orban accused the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, of abusing its powers in challenging Hungary's recently adopted legislation.

Orban made the announcement after the European Commission last week launched legal action against Budapest in relation to amendments that, among other things, ban schools from using materials deemed as promoting homosexuality.

"Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary in recent weeks regarding the law," he said. "The future of our children is at stake, so we cannot cede ground in this issue."

He did not say when the planned referendum would be held but said it would include five questions, including, "Do you support the holding of sexual-orientation classes for minor children in public education without parental consent?" and "Do you support the promotion of gender-reassignment treatments for minor children?"

EU officials did not immediately comment on Orban's remarks.

The legal action launched by Brussels on July 15 over the legislation, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called a "disgrace," could hold up EU funding for Budapest.

The controversial law that came into force earlier this month triggered sharp criticism among EU leaders and members of the LGBT community and human rights activists who see it as an attack on the rights of LGBT people by stigmatizing sexual minorities and stifling discourse on sexual orientation.

Orban, in power since 2010, faces a difficult election next year amid increasing economic difficulties exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Budapest's liberal mayor, Gergely Karacsony, who is eyeing a run against Orban in next year's elections, said the prime minister's proposed referendum was aimed at distracting Hungarians from other domestic issues.

Karacsony announced his own plan to hold a referendum to ask Hungarians what they think about key government policies and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said he would also seek opinions on controversial Chinese investments in the capital, including for a controversial university.

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

    RFE/RL’s Hungarian Service -- closed after the Cold War ended -- was relaunched on September 8, 2020, in response to the country’s steep decline in media freedom. It's an entirely digital service dedicated to serving the public interest by representing a diversity of views and providing reliable, unbiased reporting about the issues audiences care about most.