Hungary’s right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has proposed a referendum on the country’s controversial new LGBTQ law. The move is in response to the European Union which lambasted the new measure by the member state.
In a Facebook video on Wednesday, the hardline leader outlined a five-question vote that will ask the public if they support the “promotion” of content related to sexual orientation to children. Orbán is urging the public to vote “no.”
“In the past weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary over its child protection law. Hungarian laws do not permit sexual propaganda in kindergartens, schools, on television and in advertisements,” Orban said in a Facebook video.
In his announcement, he referred to a referendum five year ago in which Hungary rejected the EU’s refugee resettlement plan but failed to reach a voter turnout threshold, making the referendum not legally binding.
“Then, a referendum and the common will of the people stopped Brussels,” he said. “We have already succeeded once and together we will succeed again.”
Members of the European Parliament and other European leaders have criticized the new policy, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte saying that Hungary has “no place in the EU.”
CNN learned that during the last closed-door meeting of EU leaders, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, starkly warned Orban: “My grandfather was Jewish, I’m gay and can live freely. And then I read this law. I know what happens when you turn people into a minority.”
Seventeen other member states pointedly signed a letter to the presidents of the EU institutions, reiterating their support for human rights as outlined in Article 2 of the treaties of the European Union.
The European Commission last week announced infringement proceedings against Orban’s government in relation to the law.
What the ballot paper will ask
The law bans all educational materials and programs for children that are considered to promote homosexuality and gender reassignment.
It has been condemned by many EU leaders as being homophobic and has prompted intense criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties. On the day it passed, crowds gathered in Budapest outside parliament to protest the bill.
“In the past weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary over its child protection law. Hungarian laws do not permit sexual propaganda in kindergartens, schools, on television and in advertisements,” Orban said in the video.
Orban has maintained that the law – approved in parliament last month – is not about violating LGBTQ rights as critics argue, but about preserving parents’ rights to choose how to educate their children.
The Hungarian government also announced on Wednesday that proposals to hold referendums are allowed again after being suspended due to Covid-19.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said it would not comment on Orban’s statement – as is standard practice when any member state announces a referendum – but referred CNN to the infringement procedure it launched last week.