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Hungary lawmakers pass bill barring LGBT content for minors, move denounced by rights groups

Lawmakers in Hungary approved legislation Tuesday that prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment, which human rights groups denounced as anti-LGBT discrimination.

Legislation represents 'severe state discrimination,' German official says

Demonstrators in Budapest protest Monday against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the latest legislation, which prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment and is being criticized as discriminatory against LGBT people. (Marton Monus/Reuters)

Lawmakers in Hungary approved legislation Tuesday that prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment, which human rights groups denounced as anti-LGBT discrimination.

Fidesz, the conservative ruling party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, introduced the legislation, which is the latest effort to curtail the rights of LGBT people in the European Union nation located in central Europe.

Hungary's National Assembly approved the bill in a 157-1 vote. Fidesz has a parliamentary majority, and lawmakers from the right-wing Jobbik party also endorsed the measure. One independent lawmaker voted against it.

Thousands of LGBT activists and others held a protest in Budapest on Monday in an unsuccessful effort to stop the legislation from passing.

Orban's ruling party has increasingly depicted the LGBT rights movement as a threat, in an attempt to shore up its conservative base ahead of elections in 2022. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)

Law called 'state discrimination' against LGBT people

Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights body, also had asked Hungarian lawmakers to reject the legislation, saying it reinforced prejudice against LGBT people.

Michael Roth, Germany's deputy foreign minister, said the decision "represents another severe state discrimination" against LGBT people.

Csaba Domotor, the Fidesz state secretary, described the goal as "the protection of children," noting that the changes include the introduction of a searchable registry of convicted pedophiles.

"Pedophiles won't be able to hide any more — there are similar solutions in other countries, too," he said. "The criminal code will be even more strict. Punishments will be more severe. No one can get away with atrocities with light punishments and parole."

Human rights groups had denounced the measure strongly, saying it was wrong to conflate LGBT people with pedophilia. They argued that the law could be used to stigmatize and harass residents because of their sexual orientations and gender identities.

All other opposition parties boycotted the voting session in protest.

On this shameful day, the opposition's place is not in the parliament but on the streets," Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony wrote on Facebook.

Law not in line with Hungarian society, groups say

Orban's government in the past has depicted migrants as a grave threat to Hungary and the nation's Christian identity, a theme the prime minister has successfully used to win past elections.

With the next elections scheduled for 2022, and fewer migrants entering Europe, the ruling party has increasingly depicted the LGBT rights movement as a threat in an attempt to shore up its conservative base.

Yet more than a dozen local organizations, including Amnesty International Hungary and LGBT rights organizations, argued in a statement after the vote that the legislation is not in line with Hungarian society, which is largely accepting of LGBT people.

The law "also clearly infringes the right to freedom of expression, human dignity and equal treatment," the statement said.

Demonstrators march around the Hungarian parliament in Budapest on Monday as part of protests against the new legislation. (Marton Monus/Reuters)

Changes violate human rights, lawmaker argues

Lawmaker Gergely Arato, of the Democratic Coalition parliamentary grouping, said the changes violate the standards of parliamentary democracy, rule of law and human rights.

The legislation, presented last week by Fidesz, was on its face primarily aimed at fighting pedophilia.

It included amendments that ban the representation of any sexual orientation besides heterosexual as well as sex reassignment information in school sex education programs, or in films and advertisements aimed at anyone under 18.

The Fidesz party also successfully championed a law last year making it impossible for transgender people to legally change the gender markers on their identity documents.

Human rights officials say that puts them at risk of humiliation when they need to present identity documents.

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