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Hungary passes law banning LGBTQ content for minors

Protesters unfurl a rainbow flag during an LGBTQ rights demonstration in front of the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest on June 14. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI/AP)
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Lawmakers in Hungary passed legislation Tuesday that prohibits sharing content with minors that is seen as promoting homosexuality or sex reassignment, in what critics lambasted as a discriminatory move meant to shore up support for nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban ahead of an election next year.

Orban’s conservative ruling party, Fidesz, which introduced the legislation, said the goal is the “protection of children,” the Associated Press reported. The law will also establish a searchable registry of convicted pedophiles and increase sentences for sex crimes against children.

Hungary’s National Assembly approved the bill in a 157-to-1 vote, according to the AP. One independent lawmaker opposed it.

Human rights groups have denounced the law, saying it could be used to harass Hungarians because of their sexual orientations or gender identities. Amendments added to the bill last week restrict education on LGBTQ issues and content deemed to promote homosexuality.

The new restrictions require that all content that might fall under the category of “not recommended for those under 18 years of age” be labeled and restricted to overnight use in the media, the New York Times reported.

In a letter criticizing the bill, human rights organizations including Amnesty International Hungary said the amendment of the law “clearly infringes the right to freedom of expression, human dignity and equal treatment.” The groups said it echoes Russian legislation passed in 2013 that makes “scientific dialogue and enlightening work” on gay and transgender issues “impossible.”

Human Rights Watch warned that the law could have a harmful impact on children and “sweeping consequences for health providers, educators, and artists, among others.”

The law marks the latest effort by Orban to undermine LGBTQ rights in Hungary. The government has previously pushed through measures that blocked transgender and intersex people from changing their gender marker on official documents and essentially banned same-sex couples from adopting children.

The new legislation comes as Orban gears up for elections, promoting a strongly conservative Christian agenda. In nearby Poland, the ruling Law and Justice party has made similar moves, with local councils passing legislation against “LGBT ideology.” Concern over the erosion of human rights protections has put both countries on a collision course with European Union officials in Brussels.

Rights groups in Hungary have promised to fight the restrictions.

“In the next period, we will focus on challenging the infringing and inhumane law by all legal means at home and abroad,” said Luca Dudits, a spokesperson for the Hatter Society, an LGBTQ organization that signed the rights groups’ letter.

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