Von der Leyen chides Hungary over bill to restrict LGBTQ depictions

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen personally issued a rare rebuke of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government on Wednesday, after the country’s parliament approved a law banning the portrayal of homosexuality to minors.

“Very concerned about the new law in Hungary,” the Commission chief tweeted. “We are assessing if it breaches relevant EU legislation. I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity, not one which hides it from our children.”

The new law impacts educational programs, advertising and even popular television shows, and has caused deep alarm within Hungary’s LGBTQ community.

“No one should be discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation,” von der Leyen said.

The Hungarian government has fiercely defended the controversial provisions, which were included in legislation originally aimed at combating pedophilia and garnered support from both the ruling Fidesz party and members of the opposition right-wing Jobbik party.

The law “will further strengthen the protection of children,” government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

“We think this is necessary to protect children in their sexual development,” the spokesperson wrote, adding that “instead of fighting the battles of gender ideology, we are focused on the important things: the protection and healthy development of children in Hungary and preserving the right of parents to educate their kids on these sensitive matters.”

The Commission, however, has suggested that it sees the new law as a form of censorship.

“I deeply regret the new law in Hungary that bans the portrayal of homosexuality to minors,” Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders tweeted.

“When building their own identities, younger generations need to have access to information that reflects a modern and truly open society, in all its diversity. No one should be censored,” Reynders wrote, ending the post with a rainbow flag. 

LGBTQ groups in Hungary have pledged to fight the new law. The measure “clearly violates European and international law,” said Luca Dudits, an executive board member of Háttér Society, a rights group.

The debate has spilled over into the sports world. UEFA, European football’s governing body, was sent a report detailing homophobia at Tuesday’s Hungary-Portugal match, held in Budapest as part of the Euro 2020 tournament. The executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), which drew up the report, told the sports news site the Athletic that anti-LGBTQ banners seen at the stadium were “political and an endorsement of policies of the government. It all fits together.”

A spokesperson for the European Commission said on Wednesday that it is conducting an analysis of the new law and that at the moment, “it wouldn’t be fair to jump to conclusions.”

Hans von der Burchard contributed reporting.

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