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." The next day, European Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said the EU executive would "look into it in more detail." "We are not going to be shy, we are going to express our views or opinions," Spinant said. "But we need to base those on a thorough reflection on what is actually in that law, and what the problems with that law would be." "What we do will depend on what we find out.” Before the bill's approval, the European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli warned that the EU could withhold funding over Hungary's move. "The message is that if you don't uphold the values of democracy or equality of the European Union, you are not entitled to take money for your project," Dalli was quoted by Reuters as saying in a video call on June 15.
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 in which homosexuality or transgender people are presented as being normal. 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. 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.