Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced plans on Wednesday (21 July) to call a referendum on child protection issues to combat pressure from the European Union over legislation which the bloc says discriminates against LGBTQI+ people.
Stepping up his culture war with the European Commission, Orbán accused the EU executive of abusing its powers in challenging recent amendments to Hungary’s education and child protection laws.
“The future of our children is at stake, so we cannot cede ground in this issue,” he said in a Facebook video.
The EU executive launched three proceedings against Hungary and Poland over what it sees as violations of fundamental rights of LGBTIQ+ people last Thursday.
The Commission said it considers Budapest’s new controversial legislation that bans “promoting or portraying” homosexuality or sex reassignment to minors and limits sexual education in schools to be in violation of a host of EU laws.
“In the past weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary over its child protection law. Hungarian laws do not permit sexual propaganda in kindergartens, schools, on television and in advertisements,” Orbán said.
Budapest has accused Brussels of withholding the approval of its EU-funded recovery plans over the new amendments. The Commission said its concerns regarding the recovery and resilience plans are not connected to the LGBTQI+ law and are to do with the lack of anti-graft protections.
Orbán did not announce when the planned referendum would be held but said it would include five questions, which are:
- Do you support the holding of activities presenting sexual orientations to underage children in a public education establishment without parental consent?
- Do you support the promotion of sex reassignment therapy for underage children?
- Do you support the availability of sex reassignment treatment for underage children?
- Do you support the presentation of sexual media content to minors that could affect their development without restrictions?
- Do you support the presentation of media content portraying gender reassignment to minors without restrictions?
In a previous letter, the Commission said that the bill puts homosexuality, sex-change and divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth “on the same footing as pornography, and are considered as capable of exerting negative influence on the physical moral development of minors.”
Orbán, who has been in power since 2010 and faces an election next April, portrays himself as a defender of traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.
In his announcement Orbán alluded to the 2016 referendum initiated by his government on the EU’s migrant relocation plans.
“I ask you to say ‘no’ to these questions together, just as we said ‘no’ five years ago when Brussels wanted to force immigrants unto Hungary, then a referendum and the common will of the people stopped Brussels. We have succeeded once, and together we will succeed again”, he said in his Wednesday announcement.
In the 2016 referendum, which failed to reach 50% turnout to be considered valid, EU migrant quotas were rejected with a 98% majority.
Nevertheless, the EU’s top court ruled in 2020 that Hungary, as well as Poland and Czechia failed to fulfil their legal obligations under EU law when they refused to participate in the relocation system for refugees.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]