A protester with a rainbow flag at a protest for LGBT rights in front of the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest … (AP Photo / Bela Szandelszky, FILE)
The Hungarian government wants a national Hold a referendum to demonstrate public support for a law that the European Union claims discriminates against LGBT people.
The government says the legislation aims to protect children but many have viewed it as an attack on the rights of LGBT criticized.
In a video posted on Facebook yesterday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the referendum was necessary to counter strong opposition to EU action, which he believes has “abused its power” by taking legal action against Hungary of the law.
“Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary in recent weeks because of its child protection law,” said Orban. “When the pressure on our homeland is so strong, only the common will of the people can defend Hungary.”
Mr Orban has remained defiant on this issue, despite the fact that he is under increasing scrutiny at home and abroad for democratic relapses and allegations of espionage.
The law passed by the Hungarian Parliament last month prohibits the representation of homosexuality or gender reassignment among minors in school education programs and media content. Its passing sparked a heated confrontation between Mr Orban’s right-wing government and the 27-member EU, which argued that it discriminated against LGBT people and violated the bloc’s core values.
The referendum, Orban said, will include five questions. For example, it is about whether children should be introduced to topics of sexual orientation in school and whether gender reassignment should be promoted or presented to children.
You will also ask whether sex reassignment procedures should be made available to minors, he said, calling on Hungarians to vote “no” on each of the questions.
The referendum announcement comes as Mr Orban, a frequent critic of the EU, is under heavy pressure on several fronts ahead of next spring’s elections, which are expected to be the next since he came to power in 2010.
His government is under fire because an international investigation has found that it has used powerful malware to spy on critical journalists, politicians and business representatives via their smartphones.
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Opposition lawmakers have called for an investigation into alleged espionage by Parliament’s national security committee, but delegates from Mr Orban’s Fidesz party announced that they would prevent the committee from being convened and called the reports “unfounded”.
Other senior officials have refused to confirm or deny that the government used the spyware against Hungarian citizens.
Minutes after the referendum was announced, several opposition parties called for a boycott of the vote. Peter Jakab, president of the right-wing Jobbik party, called the referendum plan a “clear diversion” from the espionage allegations.
The president of the centrist party Momentum, Andras Fekete-Gyor, said it was “a mockery of democracy and nothing more than baseless hate propaganda”.
On Tuesday the EU Executive Commission published a report on EU members’ compliance with the rule of law, outlining the erosion of democratic standards in Hungary, including inadequate anti-corruption measures and a deterioration in media pluralism.
The Commission has also chosen to withhold billions of euros from EU economic recovery funds to Hungary until it implements judicial reform and strengthens anti-corruption frameworks.
Mr Orban interpreted the move as an attempt by the EU to force Hungary to change its controversial law on the representation of homosexuality.
A Mediahuis website