Hungary’s cruel ‘LGBT+ propaganda’ ban is an ‘affront to human rights’, say top UK officials

Hungary: Thousands protest law banning public discussion of LGBT people

Top British officials have slammed Hungary’s “LGBT+ propaganda” ban as an “affront to human rights” as it faces fire from both sides of the political spectrum.

Earlier this month, ruling Fidesz party lawmakers in Hungary added last-minute changes to an anti-paedophilia bill that bans any discussion of LGBT+ people in schools and in the media.

It passed in a lopsided 157-1 vote last week that touched off nationwide protests as rainbow flags flooded the streets of Budapest outside Hungary’s parliament, the National Assembly.

But as Brussels prepares to counter the bill, British officials are also sharpening their attack lines. Top lawmakers from both the ruling Conservative Party and opposition Labour have emphatically denounced the legislation, one they say deeply cuts into queer Hungarians’ already threadbare rights.

Wendy Morton, a Foreign Office minister in charge of European affairs, voiced the government’s “concerns” over the bill that passed just weeks after prime minister Boris Johnson warmly welcomed his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orbán, to Number 10.

“We are concerned by measures that discriminate against the LGBT+ community in the law passed by the Hungarian parliament last week,” she tweeted Monday (21 June).

“The UK stands up for the rights of [LGBT+] people all over the world, and we stand in solidarity with LGBT+ people in Hungary.”

In publicly upbraiding the bill, however, Hungarian ministers quickly veered into attack mode. Zoltan Kovács, an Orbán administration veteran and government mouthpiece, called on Morton to “read the text of the new law”.

“In [Hungary], we believe that educating children about sexual orientation must be protected as the sole right of parents,” he tweeted. “And no, we’re not going to apologise for protecting our children.”

Morton’s Labour equivalent, Catherine West, who serves as shadow minister for Europe and the Americas, told PinkNews that the government must lock arms and stand up for queer Hungarians.

“This is a further sign of the alarming slide in LGBT+ rights we are witnessing in Hungary and other parts of Europe and demonstrates how inappropriate it was for Boris Johnson to roll out the red carpet for Hungarian prime minister Victor Orbán a few weeks ago,” she said in a statement.

“Britain should act to protect LGBT+ rights the world over, and the UK government must make it clear these developments are completely unacceptable.

“LGBT+ rights are human rights, and must be at the heart of the government’s ‘Global Britain’ strategy.”

Nick Herbert, the Conservative Party’s first openly gay lawmaker and LGBT+ envoy, added to the drumbeat of criticism in an interview with Openly. “This kind of law is obviously completely unacceptable,” he said.

“It’s an affront to human rights [and] it’s very concerning that European countries should be going backwards like this.”

He added that Johnson raised the alarm over the country’s treatment of queer rights to Orbán when the premier visited.

Participants gather near the parliament building in Budapest on June 14, 2021, during a demonstration against the Hungarian government’s draft bill seeking to ban the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. (GERGELY BESENYEI/AFP via Getty Images)

As British officials join the European Union in offering bruising takedowns of Orbán, it remains unclear whether either side will be issuing sanctions anytime soon.

The EU’s equalities commissioner has already vowed to continue the bloc’s playbook on dealing with homophobia in member states by withholding funding for certain projects.

But such words, promises and even symbolic gestures offer little solace for queer Hungarians, who have been forced to hunker down or even flee the country to escape the relentless attacks from elected officials.

Obrán, with an election looming, has sought to present himself as something of a protector of traditional Christian values. By trying to score cheap party points by tangling up being LGBT+ with paedophilia, Orbán promotes the government as something of a bulwark against liberal values.

His government has aggressively whittled away at LGBT+ rights over his premiership, from outlawing civil unions and same-sex adoption to even launching a bid to legally erase trans people.

But embattled activists remain hopeful. Scenes of tens of thousands queer Hungarians and allies taking to the street and Budapest Pride charging ahead with its march next month remind advocacy groups why the fight has not yet been lost.

“We won’t be silenced, we won’t be banned,” said Budapest Pride organiser Viktória Radványi in a statement posted on Hungary’s oldest LGBT+ rights group, the Háttér Society.

“Reality cannot be banned.”