Hungarian Group Promises to Engage in 'Civil Disobedience' to Protest LGBTQ Law

Activists in Hungary promise to engage in a civil disobedience campaign to protest a new law they believe discriminates against LGBTQ people and violates national and international human rights standards.

The law prohibits the display of content depicting homosexuality or sex reassignment to minors. A provision in the legislation also prevents organizations from holding educational programs on sexual orientation in schools unless they are approved by the government.

Critics say the law, which went into effect Thursday, stigmatizes and marginalizes the LGBTQ community, and denies young LGBTQ people important information.

"We think that the only path we can pursue is civil disobedience, and we will not change anything about our activities," Luca Dudits, a spokesperson for Hatter Society, Hungary's largest LGBTQ advocacy group, told The Associated Press after activists erected a 30-foot-high rainbow heart across from the parliament building.

Many European leaders have also spoken out against this law, saying it violated the European Union's values. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the law "a disgrace" during the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Hungary LGBTQ Law
Activists fly a giant heart balloon in rainbow colors as they perform a flashmob in order to protest against a new law in front of the parliament in Budapest on July 8, 2021. A new law banning the depiction of homosexuality or gender change to minors has sparked protests as activists believe the law is discriminatory towards the LGBTQ community and puts LGBTQ youth at risk of harassment. ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below:

EU lawmakers are expected to approve a joint resolution condemning the legislation on Thursday and have urged the European Commission to take swift action against Hungary unless it changes tack.

The resolution states that the law will "restrict severely and intentionally the rights and freedoms of LGBTIQ persons, as well as children's rights," and urges the commission to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on Thursday, Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban characterized the controversy as a "debate about who decides how we will raise our children."

"Brussels bureaucrats have no place here," Orban said.

The debate over the law reflects a larger one within the 27-member EU, where a handful of countries are led by populist leaders who have pressed ahead with laws and policies that many in the bloc feel are anti-democratic or violate its founding values. On the one hand, critics of those polices want the EU to take action to protect their vision of the bloc as a progressive institution; on the other, such action raises uncomfortable questions about how much power Brussels should have over member states' own parliaments.

Orban's government — which next year faces elections expected to be the most competitive since his party returned to power in 2010 — is one of the faces of this rift. A champion of what he calls "illiberal democracy" and a conservative religious worldview, Orban has depicted his rejection of immigration as a fight to preserve Christian civilization, and has taken increasing control over Hungary's higher education system in an effort to instill conservative values.

Along with Poland, Hungary's closest EU ally, Orban has repeatedly challenged the bloc over issues like migration, corruption and the rule of law. Last year, the two countries held up passage of the EU's budget and COVID-19 economic recovery package over provisions that would allow the withholding of payments to countries that fail to uphold democratic standards.

David Vig, director of Amnesty International Hungary which co-hosted Thursday's demonstration, called the recent legislation "fundamentalist," and expressed support for EU action against Hungary's government, including the possible freezing billions of dollars in funding to the nation.

"We expect EU institutions to act firmly and the European Commission to start an infringement procedure ... because this is in clear contradiction not just with EU values, but also with binding EU law and the commission's LGBTQ strategy," Vig said.

But he said that must be done in way that "does not affect the human rights of everyday Hungarians."

LGBTQ Activists Hungary
Activists pose for a photo after erecting a large rainbow-colored heart in front of the country's parliament building in Budapest, Hungary, on Thursday, July 8, 2021. The activists are protesting against the recently passed law they say discriminates and marginalizes LGBTQ people. Laszlo Balogh/AP Photo