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EU sues Hungary and Poland over LGBTQ discrimination

July 15, 2021

The European Commission has started legal steps against Hungary's law banning LGBTQ content for minors and Poland's "LGBTQ-free" zones.

A drag queen waves a rainbow flag at an LGBT rights demonstration in front of the Hungarian parliament.
Hungary and Poland's policies toward LGBTQ communities triggered protest across EuropeImage: Bela Szandelszky/dpa/picture alliance

The European Commission on Thursday launched legal cases against Hungary and some regions in Poland over LGBTQ discrimination. 

Hungary has faced wide condemnation from the European Union since its parliament passed a law that bans information about LGBTQ issues for minors.

In Poland, more than 100 regions have declared themselves "LGBTQ-ideology-free zones," sparking wide criticism across the bloc. 

"Europe will never allow parts of our society to be stigmatized," the European Commission said on Twitter. 

"Equality and the respect for dignity and human rights are core values of the EU, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. The Commission will use all the instruments at its disposal to defend these values," the EU executive said in a statement. 

The two EU member states have two months to respond.

What is Hungary's anti-LGBTQ law?

Hungary passed a law that prohibits young people's access to information about LGBTQ as part of a broader "Anti-Pedophilia Act." 

The law bans the "display or promotion" of homosexuality or gender reassignment in educational material or TV shows for people under 18.

Critics say it conflates pedophilia with homosexuality. It has also been criticized for its vague wording, prompting fears that even waving a rainbow flag could be punished. 

On Thursday, the Commission said that Hungary breached European laws by failing to justify such restrictions. 

The European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, has repeatedly slammed the "disgraceful" law.

What are Poland's 'LGBTQ-free' zones?

Authorities in over 100 regions in Poland pledged to refrain from acts that encourage tolerance toward homosexuality in these so-called LGBTQ-free zones. 

Municipalities also avoid providing financial assistance to NGOs working to promote equal rights.

The European Commission accuses Poland of having failed to deal properly with municipalities declaring themselves LGBTQ-free zones.

"The Commission is concerned that these declarations may violate EU law regarding non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation," the EU executive said Thursday.

A map highlighting the so-called LGBT-ideology-free regions in Poland

In March, the European Parliament tried to push back on rising homophobia in Poland, adopting a resolution that declared the entire 27-member bloc a "freedom zone'' for LGBTQ people. 

The European Commission has the right to take legal action against member states if it believes they breached the bloc's laws. The process can ultimately lead to imposing large fines.

fb/sms (Reuters, dpa)