Hungary’s Viktor Orbán will hold referendum on anti-LBGT law

Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has announced that his government will hold a nationwide referendum on “child protection”, a euphemism for parts of a recent law widely condemned as discriminatory that bans any portrayal of LGBT people in materials meant for children.

“LGBTQ activists visit kindergartens and schools and conduct sexual education classes. They want to do this here in Hungary as well,” said Orbán in a Facebook video statement placed on Wednesday.

The referendum will have five questions, mostly couched in leading language. One of the questions is: “Do you support minors being shown, without any restriction, media content of a sexual nature that is capable of influencing their development?”

Orbán announced the referendum three days before the Budapest Pride march on Saturday.

Hungary’s new law came into force earlier this month. It appears to conflate homosexuality and paedophilia, and is modelled partly on a Russian law that banned so-called “gay propaganda” among minors. The Hungarian law goes further, making it an offence to “promote or portray” homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors. It also limits sex education in schools to government-approved organisations.

Last month, the EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, described the bill as “a shame” and discriminatory. “I will use all the legal powers of [the] EU Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed,” she wrote on Twitter.

Orbán is facing elections next spring against a newly formed opposition coalition, which could be a closely fought race. The vigorous anti-LGBT rhetoric appears to be part of a political strategy to find a new target for firming up support for Orbán’s Fidesz party, after years of campaigning against refugees and migration.

“The future of our children is at stake, so we cannot let Brussels have its way,” said Orbán.

“The prime minister asked Hungarians to say no to these questions, just as they did five years ago when we stopped Brussels from forcing migrants on us,” said Orbán’s spokesperson Zoltán Kovács in a blogpost.

In fact, a 2016 referendum on mandatory migrant quotas fell short of the 50% turnout required for it to be binding, even though the vast majority of ballots cast were in the government’s favour.

Rights groups say the referendum is likely to increase discrimination and stigmatisation of Hungary’s LGBT community, and make life more difficult and dangerous for LGBT children.

“Organising a referendum to take away fundamental rights of a minority reminds us of Europe in the 1930s,” said Rémy Bonny, a Belgian LGBT rights activist, in a statement. “This referendum [is] not only putting the LGBTIQ-community back in the closet, it also endangers the basic rights of children.”

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