The European Union (EU) has threatened to sanction Hungary, an EU member state, over a new law that prohibits the sharing of content on homosexuality or sex reassignment to people under 18 in school sex education programs, TV and advertisements.
Hungary’s national assembly passed the legislation last month, 157-1.
Critics say the law is discriminatory toward LGBTQ individuals, but Hungarian lawmakers argue that they are simply trying to allow parents to have a say in their children’s sexual education and to protect children from potential pedophilia.
“We think this is necessary to protect children in their sexual development,” said Zoltán Kovács, Hungary’s secretary of state for International Communication and Relations. “We also believe that certain content should only be introduced at a suitable age in the interest of children’s healthy psychological and mental development.”
EU leaders have called the Hungarian law “a clear breach of the EU’s values, principles and law,” but Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, disagrees.
“The new Hungarian law does not conflict with any lofty ideals or European laws,” he said. “The new Hungarian law simply states clearly that only parents can decide on the sexual education of their children. Education in schools must not be in conflict with the will of parents; it must at most be supplementary, its form and content must be clearly defined and it must be subject to parental consent.”
Same-sex marriage is constitutionally forbidden in Hungary, but civil partnerships are recognized. And only heterosexual married couples can adopt children unless granted special permission by the family affairs minister.
In the last few years, Hungarian legislators have worked to pass laws that maintain “Hungary’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.” For example, last December, lawmakers amended the country’s constitution to define the basis of the family, stating that the family is a “marriage and parent-child relationship” and “the mother is a woman and the father is a man.”
The European Commission and the EU’s parliament have already launched “rule of law” action against the Hungarian government. If four-fifths of Hungary’s 26 EU partners agree “there is a clear risk of a serious breach” of the bloc’s values, Budapest could lose its voting rights.
Opponents are also pushing for the commission to deny Hungary access to a new European coronavirus recovery fund.
But Orbán refuses to repeal the law.
“The European Parliament and the European Commission want [us to] let LGBTQ activists and organizations into the kindergartens and schools,” he said. “Hungary does not want that. … The law is about [allowing parents to decide the way in which they] would like to sexually educate their kids, [that right] exclusively [belongs] to the parents.”
Above: Hungary’s Parliament building in the capital city of Budapest.