Metro Weekly

EU launches legal action against Hungary and Poland for violating LGBTQ rights

Hungary and Poland have been called out by the EU for targeting LGBTQ people with harsh laws and restrictions.

european union, european commission, poland, hungary
European Union flags in front of a rainbow background — Photo: Ursula von der Leyen / Twitter

The European Union has launched legal action against two of its member states for “violations of fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people.”

Hungary and Poland have both been called out by the EU for targeting their respective LGBTQ populations with harsh laws and restrictions.

In Hungary, a recent law banned the “promotion” of LGBTQ issues in schools, advertising, and the media, effectively banning discussion of LGBTQ people or issues.

The country, led by anti-LGBTQ right-wing populist Viktor Orban, has also updated its constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and revoked the legal recognition of transgender people.

In Poland, dozens of regions and municipalities have introduced so-called “LGBT-free zones,” declaring that LGBTQ people are not welcome within their boundaries and considering LGBTQ rights to be a form of “propaganda” that runs counter to the right-wing government’s attempts to promote family structure and increase birth rates.

After months of criticism over both countries’ actions, the European Commission — the EU’s independent executive arm — is now launching formal infringement procedures against Hungary and Poland.

“Europe will never allow parts of our society to be stigmatised,” the Commission said in a tweet. “We start legal action against Hungary and Poland for violations of fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people.”

Specifically, the Commission is citing violations of the Treaty of the European Union, which states that the EU is “founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”

Hungary has also been accused of violating multiple EU laws related to audiovisual media, freedom to provide services, and free movement of goods, while Poland has been accused of breaching nondiscrimination law.

The Commission has given both states two months to respond, after which they may be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union, with potential punishments including daily fines.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has repeatedly spoken out against the rising levels of anti-LGBTQ intolerance in some EU member states.

“Europe will never allow parts of our society to be stigmatised: be it because of whom they love, because of their age, their ethnicity, their political opinions, or their religious beliefs,” she said earlier this month.

Von der Leyen previously slammed Poland’s “LGBT-free zones,” calling them “humanity-free zones” and saying they have “no place in our Union.”

“I will not rest when it comes to building a union of equality,” von der Leyen said at the time. “A Union where you can be who you are and love who you want — without fear of recrimination or discrimination.

“Because being yourself is not your ideology,” she added. “It’s your identity. And no one can ever take it away.”

Last year, the European Commission unveiled plans to tackle anti-LGBTQ discrimination and rising homophobia and transphobia in some EU member states.

The plan aims to criminalize homophobic hate speech, grant legal recognition to same-sex parents, and better protect LGBTQ rights across the European Union’s 27 member countries.

“This is not about ideology. This is not about being men or women. This is about love,” Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova said at the time. “This strategy is not against anyone. This does not put anyone on a pedestal. But it is about guaranteeing safety and non-discrimination for everyone.”

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