Prime Minister Viktor Orban calls for public vote on new legislation in the wake of a legal challenge from the European Commission.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has announced plans to call a referendum on a controversial LGBTQ law after the European Commission took legal action against his government over the measure.
The legislation, which came into effect this month, prohibits the use of materials seen in schools as promoting homosexuality and gender reassignment. It has caused unrest among the Hungarian LGBTQ community, drawn contempt across Europe and increased friction between the Hungarian government and the Commission, the executive arm of the European Union.
As he escalated Hungary’s struggles with the commission when he announced the planned referendum, Orban on Wednesday accused the agency of abusing its powers by launching infringement proceedings last week against legislation that could block EU funding for Hungary.
“The future of our children is at stake, so we cannot part ways in this matter,” Orban said in a video posted to Facebook.
“In recent weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary for its child protection law. Hungarian laws do not allow sexual propaganda in kindergartens, schools, on television and in advertisements,” he added.
Orban urges Hungarians to vote ‘no’
The Hungarian government has announced the law as a way to protect children, but opponents argue it confuses pedophilia with homosexuality and stigmatizes LGBTQ people.
Orban, a hard-core nationalist, did not reveal when the planned referendum would be held, but said it would consist of five questions.
These include asking Hungarians whether they support sexual orientation workshops in schools without their consent, or whether they believe that gender reassignment procedures in children should be promoted.
Orban said the questions would also include whether content that could affect children’s sexual orientation should be shown without restriction, or whether sex reassignment procedures should also be made available to children.
He urged all participants to answer the questions with ‘no’.
The prime minister, who has been in power since 2010 and is facing elections next April, portrays himself as a defender of the traditional Christian values of Western liberalism.
He has recently become increasingly radical on social policy, railing against LGBTQ people, migrants and refugees as part of his self-proclaimed illiberal approach to governance.
EU labels bill as ‘disgrace’
The European Commission did not immediately comment on Orban’s plan to hold a referendum.
The body has said the law violates EU rules on the right to freedom of expression, as well as free trade and services.
Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen previously called the bill a “disgrace” and said the EU executive would use “all available powers” to force Hungary to withdraw or amend the law.
The infringement procedure initiated by the agency involves several steps and can take years to finally reach the European Court of Justice, which can impose financial sanctions.
Hungary has two months to respond to the committee’s arguments before the procedure moves to the next stage.