Hungary’s vile LGBT+ propaganda referendum fails as despot Orbán wins fourth term

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and members of the Fidesz party celebrate their re-election

As Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán secured a fourth term, his referendum deciding the fate of LGBT+ rights stalled.

In Sunday’s (3 April) general election, Orbán’s right-wing Fidesz party won 53.1 per cent of votes (with 98 per cent counted), crushing a six-party opposition bloc that united in an attempt to end his autocratic rule.

It was a disappointment for the LGBT+ community: Orbán’s rule has been increasingly been defined by attacks on rule of law, democracy and human rights, including multiple assaults on LGBT+ and women’s rights.

While Orbán was victorious in the election, a government referendum attacking LGBT-inclusive education failed on the same night.

The referendum asked voters for their views on proposed legislation to limit schools teaching about LGBT+ topics and identities following Orbán’s so-called “LGBT+ propaganda” law.

It featured four loaded questions that gauged whether the public supported the “showing of sex-change media content to minors”, among other questions on sex education programs in schools.

Orbán’s administration had urged the public to say “no” to such questions, and nine in 10 Hungarians voted in line with the government’s anti-LGBT+ campaign.

However, the poll failed to attract enough voters to make it legally binding. According to the National Election Office, just 3.5 million of Hungary’s eight million registered voters took part – half of eligible voters needed to turn out for the poll to be binding.

More than 1.5 million votes, or 20 per cent, were invalid. A campaign run by human rights groups including Amnesty International Hungary and Budapest Pride had encouraged Hungarians to cast invalid votes by crossing both “yes” and “no” for each question.

According to Bloomberg, Orban has previously claimed victory on non-binding referendum outcomes, and he is expected to repeat this trick.

Orbán had cast the referendum as Hungary’s latest confrontation with the European Union. The bloc has battled Orbàn’s 12-year-long crackdown on LGBT+ rights, the press and the judiciary system.

(Arpad Kurucz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

He proposed the referendum in July as a way to ease criticism of the country’s ban on the discussion of LGBT+ people in schools and the press.

Parliamentarians had voted almost unanimously to silence the LGBT+ community in a law akin to Britain’s Section 28 and Russia’s “gay propaganda” law.

Questions on the referendum included: “Do you support the teaching of sexual orientation to minors in public education institutions without parental consent?” and “Do you support the promotion of sex reassignment therapy for underage children?”

These questions were posed to the public despite gender-affirming healthcare not being available to young people in Hungary.

With the final votes being counted, Fidesz was on course to increase its supermajority by winning 135 seats in the 199-member parliament.

“The entire world can see that our brand of Christian democratic, conservative, patriotic politics has won,” Orbán told supporters at his party’s election base, Balna, on the bank of the Danube River of Budapest.

“We are sending Europe a message that this is not the past – this is the future.”

But to the Háttér Society, one of Hungary’s largest LGBT+ groups, Orbán is anything but the future of the nation.

“The government spent billions of forints on billboards and TV ads spreading their hate message,” a spokesperson said. “But we managed to show via a social media campaign and thousands of interactions by 400 volunteers in 20 cities around the country how the questions are biased and purposefully unclear.”

How barely any Hungarians were drawn to the ballot box to vote ‘yes’ to hatred, Háttér Society added, is grounds for the law to be binned altogether.

“The government’s attempt to strengthen the anti-LGBTQI law adopted last year thus failed,” they added, “the referendum turned out to be legally invalid.

“We call on the government to revoke the law and stop demonizing LGBTQI people.”