EU launches legal action against Hungary and Poland over ‘fundamental violations’ of LGBT+ rights

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference in a pink zip-up jacket agains the EU flag

The European Union has launched legal action against Hungary and Poland over their vile anti-LGBT+ laws.

Hungary has faced widespread condemnation from the European Union (EU) since it passed a law that bans the “promotion” of LGBT+ lives to minors in schools, advertising and in the media. In Poland, more than 100 regions have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”, inviting harsh criticism from the bloc.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, announced Thursday (15 July) it would be taking action against both nations for “violations of fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people”.

In a statement, the commission said that Hungary’s anti-LGBT+ legislation runs counter to several EU laws and principles. It added that the law “violates human dignity, freedom of expression and information, the right to respect of private life” and the “right to non-discrimination”.

The EU is also targeting Hungary over its demand that the publisher of a children’s book with LGBT+ content include a disclaimer warning of “behaviour deviating from traditional gender roles”.

Poland will face action after it “failed to fully and appropriately respond to its inquiry regarding the nature and impact of the so-called ‘LGBT-ideology free zones’,” the commission said.

EU officials believe these declarations may violate EU’s law regarding non-discrimination due to sexual orientation.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Parliament, said: “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.”

The formal notice is the first step in an infringement procedure and compels Hungary and Poland to correct the issues detailed in the legal action. Hungary and Poland now have two months to respond.

If they fail to correct these issues, the EU could take the case to the European Court of Justice, which may impose steep financial penalties.

EU European parliament LGBTIQ Freedom Zone Poland

The European Parliament rolls out a banner to mark EU becoming an “LGBT+ Freedom Zone” (John Thys/AFP)

In March, the European Parliament pushed back at rising homophobia in Poland by adopting a resolution that declared the entire bloc a “freedom zone” for queer people. The resolution called on EU authorities to “protect and promote equality and the fundamental rights of all, including LGBTIQ people”.

Several regions in Poland that adopted “LGBT-free zones” have lost out on EU grants after their twin towns in neighbouring countries severed their relationship. Others have seen their COVID-19 recovery funds threatened due to the “risk of discrimination” against LGBT+ people.

Outrage against Hungary‘s anti-LGBT+ law has continued to grow in recent weeks. A group of several member states wrote an open letter declaring they would “continue fighting against discrimination towards the LGBT+ community” in the wake of the new Hungarian law.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte even went as far as suggesting that Hungary should leave the EU if it refused to overturn its reviled law. Von der Leyen has also called on bloc members to condemn the “shameful” law “in the strongest possible terms”.