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Anti-gay Hungary constitution becomes law

New anti-LGBT constitution and laws in Hungary come into force – activists join protests
Protest against the new Hungarian constitution and anti-gay law.

LGBT activists in Hungary have protested together with opposition parties against the new constitution that restricts marriage to heterosexuals and fails to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The constitution came into force on 1 January.

Meanwhile a new Family Protection Bill (which is ‘cardinal law’ that requires a two-thirds majority in parliament, like the constitution, in order to be changed) has also come into force.

This Family Protection Bill defines the family unit as heterosexual and says that preparing for family life should be part of the school curriculum. In addition it stipulates that media services should broadcast programs that respect the institution of marriage and family.

Yesterday (2 January) tens of thousands of people – including from LGBT organisations – together with the opposition Socialist and Green parties protested against the constitution and family law in Budapest.

The constitution that was voted on 18 April 2011 has thus now come into force; Article L of the constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, while Article XV.2 excludes sexual orientation from the protected grounds of discrimination (but does have provision for protection on the basis of race and gender).

In essence the new constitution would make it very difficult for gay and lesbian people to gain marriage equality in the near future and provides no protection for LGBT people from unfair dismissal or hate crimes.

In addition, the power of constitution courts has been curbed. Previously a law or act could be annulled by petitioning to the constitutional courts via non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or civil society organizations.

Tamás Dombos, from Háttér Support Society for LGBT People, told Gay Star News: ‘This is how we passed the law of cohabitation for same-sex couples in 1995 and equalised the age of consent in 2002. The new constitution will no longer enable NGOs or civil society organization to launch such campaigns in the constitutional courts.’

The Family Protection Bill proposed by four MPs of the Christian Democractic Party and voted as law on 23 December states: ‘Art 7. (1) When applying this law family shall mean the relationship between natural persons in an economic and emotional community that is based on a marriage between a woman and a man, or lineal descent, or family-based guardianship.

‘(2) Lineal descent is established by way of filiation or adoption.’

The law reiterates that the life of the fetus starts with the moment of conception, that preparing for family life should be part of school curriculum, and that media services should broadcast programs that respect the institution of marriage and family.

Dombos said: ‘The Family Protection Bill basically excludes same-sex couples, and makes provisions on inheritance which may result in registered same-sex partners losing their rights to inheritance.

‘The law also states that all “media services should broadcast programs that respect the institution of marriage and family”. That “sounds” neutral but we are concerned it would be used in the media and internet against any material that has a pro-LGBT point of view.’

But he welcomed the fact that tens of thousands of people joined the protests with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and opposition parties, such as the Socialist and Greens, uniting against the new constitution and law.

‘Despite such bad news,’ remarked Dombos, ‘there is a ray of hope, LGBT rights is now a mainstream issue embraced by the opposition.’

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