Hungary to Hold Vote to Show Citizens Support Law Banning LGBT Depictions for Minors

The Hungarian government is planning to hold a national vote to exhibit public favor for a new law that bans the depiction of homosexuality and gender reassignment in school or media content for minors, the Associated Press reported. The law has generated criticism from LGBT activists and the European Union, which initiated legal action against Hungary after the law's passage.

The vote will include five questions asking participants on whether they think LGBT and sex reassignment information and content should be available to children. It will also ask whether sex reassignment procedures should be accessible to minors, the AP reported.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a video posted on Facebook Wednesday that the vote was needed to combat the EU's resistance to the law, and that the bloc "abused its power" with the legal action.

"Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary in recent weeks due to its child protection law," Orban said. "When the pressure against our homeland is so strong, only the common will of the people can defend Hungary."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Hungary LGBT Rights Demonstration
In this file photo dated June. 14, 2021, an unidentified drag queen waves a rainbow flag during an LGBT rights demonstration in front of the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary. Hungary’s government has called for a national referendum in defence of what it calls child protection measures that many have criticized as an attack on LGBT rights. Bela Szandelszky/AP Photo

Orban has remained defiant on the issue, even as he faces increasing scrutiny at home and abroad over democratic backsliding and allegations of spying.

Its passage set off a heated confrontation between Orban's right-wing government and the 27-member EU, which argued it discriminates against LGBT people and contravenes the bloc's fundamental values.

The announcement of the referendum comes as Orban, a frequent critic of the EU, faces intense pressure on several fronts ahead of elections next spring that are forecast to be the closest since he came to power in 2010.

His government is currently under fire over findings by an international investigation published last weekend that it used powerful malware to spy on critical journalists, politicians and business figures through their smartphones.

Opposition lawmakers have demanded an inquiry into the alleged spying by the parliament's national security committee, but delegates from Orban's Fidesz party indicated they will prevent the committee from convening, calling the reports "unfounded."

Other high-ranking officials have refused to confirm or deny that the government used the spyware against Hungarian citizens.

Minutes after the announcement of the referendum, several opposition parties called for a boycott of the vote.

Peter Jakab, president of the right-wing party Jobbik, called the referendum plan a "clear diversion" from the spying allegations. The president of the centrist Momentum party, Andras Fekete-Gyor, said it was "a mockery of democracy and nothing more than gratuitous hate-mongering."

On Tuesday, the EU's executive commission issued a report on EU members' adherence to the rule of law, where it outlined the erosion of democratic standards in Hungary, including inadequate anti-corruption measures and a deterioration of media pluralism.

The Commission has also opted to withhold payment of billions of euros (dollars) in EU economic recovery funds to Hungary until it implements judicial reform and strengthens anti-corruption frameworks, according to European justice commissioner Didier Reynders.

Orban cast the moves as an attempt by the EU to force Hungary to amend its controversial law on the depiction of homosexuality, though the rule of law report made no mention of that legislation.

Viktor Orban
In this file photo dated Thursday, July 8, 2021, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia. Prime Minster Orban said Wednesday July 21, 2021, a referendum was necessary in defense of child protection measures that many have criticized as an attack on LGBT rights, and to counter strong opposition by the European Union, which he said had “abused its power.” Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo