Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has strongly defended a new law in his country banning LGBTQ content in schools as he arrived at a European Union summit in Brussels dominated by the growing controversy over the issue.
“This is not against homosexuality, any sexual interference. It’s not about homosexuals,” said Orban.
“It’s about the right of the kids and the parents,” he said, adding that he would not withdraw the legislation despite fierce public criticism of it by most of his EU counterparts.
Leaders from 17 EU countries on Thursday signed on to a letter that, although not directly mentioning Hungary, deplored “threats against fundamental rights, and in particular the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation”.
It came on the heels of a more explicit joint declaration earlier this week by the same countries, including heavyweights Germany, France, Italy and Spain, which raised “grave concerns” over the Hungarian law.
The issue pushed to the forefront of EU politics this week when UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, rejected a plan by Munich to light up its stadium in rainbow colours for a Germany-Hungary match on Wednesday.
An EU official said the burgeoning debate about Hungary’s law had become “quite important” and would likely be chewed over during a working dinner.
‘Fundamental value of EU’
Some EU leaders following Orban along the red carpet into the summit chamber were openly scathing about the legislation.
“The Hungarian authorities are transgressing a fundamental value of the European Union in terms of the measures it is adopting,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said.
“We will be articulating very strongly our view on that this evening.”
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said he would tell Orban “his comments and the laws he’s had adopted are unacceptable”.
French President Emmanuel Macron was more measured, saying he was “always wary” of demanding another EU country withdraw the legislation.
“But I will defend our values and I would say that the law … doesn’t seem to me in line with our values,” he said, adding that he hoped “dialogue” with Orban would result in the law being changed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had previously called the Hungarian law “wrong”, made no mention of it as she arrived and gave a rundown of the summit’s “full agenda”.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said the legislation “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation” and said her executive would challenge its legal basis.
Orban, however, was dismissive of the onslaught, accusing EU leaders of not reading the text of the law.
He said, if it were raised, he would tell them “it’s about how a child learns about sexuality, which is, in any case, a difficult and complicated question, and decisions about that are exclusively the business of parents”.