17 EU leaders sign LGBTQ+ rights letter in response to Hungary anti-gay law

The leaders of 16 EU countries on Thursday published a joint letter vowing to “continue fighting against discrimination towards the LGBTI community,” a day after the European Commission said it would take legal steps against Hungary’s new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, Brussels Playbook first reported.

The letter, sent on the first day of the June summit of EU heads of state or government and addressed to the presidents of the European Commission, Portuguese Council presidency and the European Council, comes ahead of the International LGBT Pride Day on June 28. It is penned “in the light of threats against fundamental rights and in particular the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation,” the signatories write. 

The letter doesn’t name Hungary explicitly, but the country is the clear target, after its parliament passed a bill that bans portrayals of homosexuality or of transgender people in content shown to minors.

“A member state makes laws that stigmatize a sexual minority and that mix up pedophilia and homosexuality — you can’t let that pass,” Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Bettel, one of the initiator of the letters, told Brussels Playbook in an interview. “For us heads of state and government, that is not acceptable.”

The European Commission on Wednesday opened legal procedures against Hungary, with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling the bill “a shame.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán replied in a terse statement that von der Leyen’s remarks were “a shame,” claiming the bill “does not contain any discriminatory elements” because it “does not apply to the sexual orientation rights of those over 18 years of age.”

The signatories of the letter are: Alexander De Croo (Belgium), Mette Frederiksen (Denmark), Angela Merkel (Germany), Kaja Kallas (Estonia), Micheál Martin (Ireland), Kyriakos Mitsotakis (Greece), Pedro Sánchez (Spain), Emmanuel Macron (France), Mario Draghi (Italy), Nicos Anastasiades (Cyprus), Krišjānis Kariņš (Latvia), Xavier Bettel (Luxembourg), Robert Abela (Malta), Mark Rutte (the Netherlands), Sanna Marin (Finland) and Stefan Löfven (Sweden). Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz cosigned the letter after it was released.

UPDATE: This article was updated after the text of the letter was released.

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