The European Commission is taking Hungary to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), to reverse both a law restricting access to information on LGBT issues and a decision to revoke the broadcast licence of the country’s last independent radio station.
The Hungarian legislation “discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” the commission said in a Friday statement announcing the move.
The legal actions are the latest in a mountain of litigation the EU executive arm has pursued against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government due to what it says are violations of EU law.
The commission has long deliberated taking Orbán’s government to court due to the controversial legislation adopted last June, but hesitated due to worries its interference could fuel Budapest’s anti-EU propaganda.
Among other things, the law restricts children’s and young people’s access to books, films and other forms of content showing anything other than heterosexuality or birth-assigned gender identities.
Orbán has repeatedly rejected charges that the legislation discriminates, arguing the rules enshrine parental control over what kind of sex education children receive at school.
The commission under President Ursula von der Leyen refutes this. “The Hungarian bill is a shame,” she said last year, announcing the infringement process that culminated in Friday’s legal action.
Hungary’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) law has also drawn strong criticism from EU member states. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Hungary should leave – or be made to leave – the European Union if it didn’t adhere to basic values of the bloc in the aftermath of the bill’s adoption.
Hungary has refused to budge, however, and a series of correspondence with the EU executive arm failed to convince the commission of the legislation’s compliance with EU law.
The commission views the law as disproportionate and puts “in place unjustified restrictions that discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation,” according to a previous statement.
The EU executive arm monitors compliance with EU law in the bloc. Should Budapest not comply with the ECJ ruling on the matter, Hungary could face heavy fines.
Similarly, the commission is pursuing legal action against Hungary regarding a decision not to award a broadcast licence to what is regarded as the country’s last independent radio broadcaster, Klubradio.
In March 2021, Hungary’s media council, whose members are supporters of Orbán, declared Klubradio’s application to broadcast as invalid.
The commission began infringement proceedings soon after, criticizing the decision as non-transparent and discriminatory, which culminated in Friday’s legal action.
Hungary has also been the subject of commission legal action for the handling of asylum claims in the country.
Budapest could also become the first EU member state to face a potential cut in EU funding due to rule-of-law violations after the commission triggered a legal mechanism to safeguard the EU budget.