(CNN)The European Union is bracing for a difficult autumn.
Beyond the nasty fallout from Brexit -- arguably the greatest crisis to befall the bloc since its creation -- and recovering from a global pandemic, the 27 member states are gearing up for a huge row over LGBT rights, the rule of law and the role both should play in the Union's future.
Tensions have been bubbling for a while, but in recent days, two events have made it clear that the issue cannot be ignored any longer.
Hungary, led by the right-wing populist Viktor Orban, brought into effect a new law that bans information which "promotes" homosexuality and gender change being used in schools. The government claims it is doing to so protect children, though critics believe that prohibiting access to such information stigmatizes LGBTQ people, putting them at risk of discrimination and violence.
On Wednesday of this week, Members of the European Parliament presented a legal case for the EU Commission, the bloc's executive branch, to strip Hungary of its EU funding as it is not meeting its obligations as an EU member state.
While the case makes no mention of Hungary's anti-LGBTQ laws, focusing instead on the country's assaults on judicial independence, among other things, the MEPs presenting the case made clear to CNN that the two are linked.
Katalin Cseh, a Hungarian opposition MEP, explained that the report "establishes the legal case" for stripping funding from Orban's government via what is called the rule of law mechanism, "based on his rampant corruption." She adds that corruption is "intimately linked to human rights abuses like the recent attack against the LGBTI community" because "an independent judiciary should be protecting LGBTI people's rights too."
Her German colleague, Daniel Freund, explains that the focus on the rule of law is part of a wider effort to create a cumulative pressure on Budapest.
"If we can cut their funding, which is the only language Orban really understands, for his assaults on the judiciary, then hopefully we can use it to build cumulative pressure for violations of the EU treaties in other areas."
The new law is part of a years-long erosion of rights for LGBTQ people. Luca Dudits from the Háttér Society, a Hungarian LGBTQ advocacy group, points to a long list of repressive actions, from banning same-sex marriage in 2011 to barring non-married couples from adopting last year.
The reality of having an openly homophobic and transphobic government and little remaining independent media has, Dudits explains, created a dangerous "echo chamber" placing vulnerable people at serious risk of discrimination and violence.
"The invisibility means that there's no way that LGBTI people really feel that there is a safe environment to come out, and obviously this also impacts social acceptance. It also affects mental health, if you are constantly hearing that you are an immoral person who is a danger to children."
'Hateful rhetoric' in the bloc
Hungary is not the only EU nation currently under fire for its treatment of LGBT people.
Poland's infamous LGBT-free zones, areas where opposition to LGBT "ideology" is symbolically written into law at state and local levels, have been criticized widely as being in violation of the EU's commitments to human rights and, in some cases, have seen applications for EU funding pulled.
Karolina Gierdal, a lawyer for the Polish advocacy group Campaign Against Homophobia, told CNN that as long as "politicians can get away with their hateful rhetoric and actions, they signal to citizens that "harassing the LGBTQI community is not discrimination and that their homophobia or transphobia is justified and may be acted upon."
Critics in Poland would like to see more action from Brussels. Sylwia Spurek, Poland's former deputy to the ombudsman on equal treatment who is now an opposition MEP, believes that the current debate around the rule of law is too narrow "because everybody is talking about, about independence of judiciary, about freedom of media, about a shrinking civic space."
She is trying to convince the Commission to see human rights a