European Union leaders on Thursday confronted their peer, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, over Hungary’s new anti-LGBTQI law, stressing their commitment to defending gay rights and piling pressure on Budapest to step back.
Asked if he would revoke the bill, passed last week to ban the distribution of the material in schools deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change, Mr Orban said on arriving at talks among the bloc’s 27 national leaders in Brussels: “The law is already announced, it’s published, it’s done.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the bill as shameful and said the bloc’s executive would take action.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the law – which introduces discriminatory provisions in a bill that otherwise penalises paedophilia – was “primitive”.
Referring to a joint letter by leaders of EU members from Italy to Ireland and Spain to Latvia, he said: “Seventeen countries in the whole of Europe – east, west, north and south – are very clear that this is going too far.”
The letter, also signed by the leaders of Germany and France, said on Thursday: “We must continue fighting against discrimination of the LGBTI community, reaffirming our defence of their fundamental rights.”
LGBTQI stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex.
Mr Orban – a self-styled crusader for what he portrays as traditional Catholic values under pressure from Western liberals – said the new law was aimed at giving parents’ the exclusive right to decide about their children’s sexual education.
He said: “I am a fighter for their rights. I am a freedom fighter in the communist regime. Homosexuality was punished and I fought for their freedom and their rights.
“So I am defending the rights of the homosexual guys.
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His openly gay Luxembourg colleague, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel recounted his own experience coming to terms with his sexuality.
He said: “The most difficult thing for me was to accept myself when I realised that I was in love with a person of my sex, was how to tell my parents, how to tell my family.
“I didn’t get up one morning after having seen an advert on the TV of some brand… and say ‘I’m gay’.
“That’s not how life works.
“It’s in me, I didn’t chose it.
“And to accept oneself is hard enough. To be stigmatised too – that’s too much.”
Mr Bettel also took a jibe at Orban in reminding of Jozsef Szajer, who used to be a prominent voice of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party in the European Parliament and played an instrumental role in rewriting Hungary’s constitution in a more conservative vein.
But he resigned last December over attending in Brussels a gay sex party, which got busted for violating COVID-19 restrictions and which Mr Szajer tried to escape by clambering down a gutter before being caught by the police.