European leaders sharply reacted to a new anti-LGBTQ+ law that went into effect in Hungary this month, with some telling the Hungarian President to either change the law or leave the European Union.
According to multiple reports, several leaders made clear in no uncertain terms their feelings about the new homophobic law championed by Hungarian President Viktor Orban which bans sharing content with minors that shows LGBTQ+ people. Some members signed a letter to Orban noting the new law may violate existing EU laws regarding required protections against discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation.
“If you don’t like it, there is also an alternative: get out of the Union,” Xavier Bettel, prime minister of Luxembourg, and who is also gay, was quoted by the Omaha-Herald Tribune as telling Orban during the meeting.
“For me, Hungary has no place in the EU anymore,” Dutch President Mark Rutte told CNN last week. “But, unfortunately, in the system that we have, I can’t do it on my own, but [with] 26 other member states saying: ‘you have to leave.’ This has to happen step by step and, in the meantime, you hope that they will adapt.”
Rutte said it was his “intention, on this point, to bring Hungary to its knees” to ensure compliance.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo was quoted by an unnamed diplomat in the Washington Post as confronting Orban during the meeting, telling him that “being homosexual is not a choice; being homophobic is.”
The U.S. State Department also issued a statement on the new law, saying that rather than oppress and marginalize citizens, “governments should promote freedom of expression and protect human rights, including the rights of members of the LGBTQI+ community,” and encouraged the Hungarian community to “accept nothing less than full equality.”
Bettel later posted to Twitter a letter decrying the new law, which was signed by representatives of other concerned member states, adding that “hate intolerance and discrimination” have no place in the EU.
While opposition to the law was high in the EU meetings, many countries did not think the actions called for expulsion. French President Emmanuel Macron said he didn’t think Hungary should be expelled over the law, but considered the incident a grave concern nonetheless.
“It’s an existential question for Europeans,” Macron told reporters Friday. “It’s a big debate.”
Orban and Hungary have at least one staunch supporter in the EU. Czech President Miloš Zeman said he found no reason to disagree with Orban and the new law, adding he was “completely annoyed by the suffragettes, the Me Too movement, and Prague Pride,” while brushing aside suggestions Orban was in the wrong.
“If you undergo a sex-change operation, you are basically committing a crime of self-harm,” Zeman told CNN Prima. “Every surgery is a risk, and these transgender people to me are disgusting.”
Hungary was in the news last year after right-wing party leader and MEP József Szájer attempted to escape arrest at an illegal gay orgy in neighboring Belgium. Some orgy guests thought the police arriving to break up the party were in fact part of the entertainment, and many partygoers tried to unzip the pants of the uniformed officers.
Video showed Szájer moments after he shimmied down a pipe and was briefly detained by police. He reportedly fell to the sidewalk as he tried to escape. The drug ecstasy was found in his backpack, but he was not immediately arrested. Instead, the shaken politician said he had no knowledge of the drug and then claimed diplomatic immunity. Szájer had no identification with him, so he was escorted to his home by police where he provided documentation proving his identity. He was released and all charges were later dropped after he paid a small fine.