The European Union has announced that it will be taking legal action against the governments of Hungary and Poland over measures which discriminate against their respective LGBTQ communities.
The European Commission, considered the “guardian of the treaties”, has the power to thoroughly investigate any alleged infringements by member states. The cases could eventually end up in the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, which could exact considerable financial penalties.
The move is part of an ongoing fight against LGBTQ discrimination in Hungary and Poland, where traditionalism and conservatism takes precedent over progressive contemporary values.
The case against Hungary is based on the recent ratification of its so-called “anti-paedophilia” law which includes provisions banning the “promotion” of homosexuality and gender reassignement in under 18s. The new legislation also outlaws the dissemination in schools of content judged to “promote homosexuality and gender change”, with gay people now barred from featuring in educational material or TV shows for under-18s.
“This law uses the protection of children, to which we are all committed, as an excuse to severely discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. This law is disgraceful,” said European Commission President, Ursula Von Der Leyen, promising to use “all powers available” to get Hungary to revoke or modify the law.
Human rights experts have been united in their belief that it will bring about further persecution and discrimination against the already stigmatised LGBTQ community in Hungary. Nick Herbert, Britain’s first Special Envoy on LGBT+ Rights, said that the law is “completely unacceptable”, adding that:
“it’s very concerning that European countries should be going backwards like this.”
Hungarian authorities have said that the passage of the law is purely based on preserving “traditional values”, though many have suggested that incumbent prime minister, Viktor Orban, may be trying appeal to his markedly conservative base ahead of elections next spring.
In a statement released on Twitter, Hungarian justice minister Judit Varga, said that “EU institutions put strong pressure on Hungary to admit LGBTQ activists to Hungarian schools and kindergartens,”
“They want to force us to let sexual propaganda spread among our children”
The case against Poland is mostly based on the existence of “LGBTQ ideology free zones” throughout much of the country’s traditionally catholic east and southeastern regions.
Around 100 towns and regions have adopted “anti-LGBTQ” resolutions, declaring themselves free of so-called “LGBTQ ideology.” Though they are not enforceable and have no legal ramifications, right experts have repeatedly warned that they encourage hate crime and spur violence.
A report published by the Council of Europe in February of this year found that “these cities and regions make up a third of all Poland so the impact on LGBTI people is not negligible,”
“resolutions are part of a broader attack against the LGBT community in Poland, which include growing hate speech by public and elected officials and public media.”
In a statement released on their website, the European Commission said they were “concerned that these declarations may violate EU law regarding non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, adding that they believe “Polish authorities failed to fully and appropriately respond to its inquiry regarding the nature and impact of the so-called ‘LGBT-ideology free zones’ resolutions adopted by several Polish regions and municipalities.”
Despite this, in June the Polish government denied having any laws which permitted discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Both countries now have two months to respond to the arguments presented by the European Commission before they are officially referred to the European Court of Justice and face legal action.