EU takes legal action against Hungary, Poland over LGBTQ rights

The legal cases could eventually land the two member states in the bloc’s highest court.

Demonstrators protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14 [File: Reuters]

The European Commission has launched legal action against the governments of European Union members Hungary and Poland in response to measures seen as discriminating against LGBTQ citizens.

As the “guardian of the treaties” binding the EU together, the commission, which is the executive branch of the bloc, can launch infringement procedures against member states. Such a procedure involves several steps and could drag out over years but could ultimately result in going to the European Court of Justice, which could impose financial penalties.

Both Hungary and Poland are ruled by right-wing, socially conservative governments whose policies have raised rule-of-law questions.

Hungary’s so-called “anti-paedophilia” law, which among other things bans the “promotion” of homosexuality and gender reassignment to under-18s, came into force last week despite many warnings from Brussels and pushback by EU leaders.

EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said last week that the bloc’s executive would use “all powers available” to force Hungary to repeal or modify the law.

“Europe will never allow parts of our society to be stigmatised: be it because of whom they love, because of their age, their ethnicity, their political opinions, or their religious beliefs,” she told MEPs.

Hungary’s legislation was billed as a way to protect children, but opponents argue that it conflates paedophilia with homosexuality and stigmatises the LGBTQ community.

In Poland, approximately 100 towns and villages have adopted the “anti-LGBT” resolution, which some describe as a “charter for family rights”. They cover about a third of Polish territory and are mainly located in the country’s east and southeast, traditionally very Catholic.

“The commission considers that Polish authorities failed to fully and appropriately respond to its inquiry regarding the nature and impact of the so-called ‘LGBT-ideology free zones’,” a statement said.

Poland is already in Brussels’ bad books for judicial reforms, which have several times been ruled to go against EU standards on judges’ independence.

The two member states now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the commission before the procedure enters the next stage.

Poland’s government in June denied having any laws that discriminated against people based on their sexual orientation.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies