As It Happens

Couple fights to adopt a child as Hungary redefines 'family' to exclude same-sex parents

Marton Pal and Adam Hanol dream of having a big family. But according to the Hungarian government, the two men and their son aren't a family at all.

Viktor Orban's government amends constitution to effectively ban same-sex adoption

Adam Hanol, left, and Marton Pal, right, play with their four-year-old son, Andris, at a playground in Budapest, Hungary, on Nov. 19. The couple were in the process of adopting a second child when the government changed the constitutional definition of 'family' to exclude same-sex parents. (Krisztina Fenyo/Reuters)


Marton Pal and Adam Hanol dream of having a big family.

But according to the Hungarian government, the two men and their son aren't a family at all.

Hungary amended its constitution on Tuesday to define "family" as "based on marriage and the parent-child relation. The mother is a woman, the father a man."

The move effectively bans adoption by same-sex couples in Hungary, dashing the Budapest couple's chances of giving their four-year-old son Andris some new siblings.

"To be honest, the Hungarian law is devastating," Pal told As It Happens host Carol Off.  "We're never going to give up, obviously. One miracle happened with our son, and why [can't] another miracle … happen?"

Adopting a 'beautiful' son

Same-sex adoption was already a minefield in Hungary, even before the constitutional amendment. Same-sex marriage is not recognized, and people in civil unions, like Pal and Hanol, cannot adopt as couples.

Instead, Pal adopted Andris as a single person so he and Hanol could raise him together. It's a common workaround for LGBTQ families in the country.

"From the first moment that I stepped in, I told them that, look, I know the Hungarian law. I know that I can adopt him individually. But I have a husband. We are living in a civil partnership. We want to do this adoption together, and I want him to be part of this whole process. And we want to raise the kid together," Pal said.

"But officially, I'm the only person who is the legal guardian of our son."

Pal says the adoption agency offered Andris to several married straight couples before he and Hanol could take him home 2½ years ago.

"We were the next in the line as a single parent, and we adopted him. And we are super happy with him, and he's a healthy, beautiful little boy —  actually the most perfect boy that you can imagine."

'We still have a chance' 

Now they want to give their perfect boy a sibling. This time, it's Hanol who is seeking to adopt a child. 

The process was already under way before the new law came into effect, so the couple believes they still have a chance to grow their family. 

They hope to one day have three children — something Hungary's government has offered financial incentives for straight couples to do. 

But under the new law, single people in Hungary must get their adoption requests approved by the family affairs minister, a post held by ultra-conservative Katalin Novak, who promotes the traditional family model.

"We still have a chance," Pal said. "But on the other hand, we know that people are working in these adoption offices and the communication from the government about what the family should look like, and it's clearly stated that gay people shouldn't have kids."

Anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric and laws have become commonplace in Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (Fransisco Seco/Reuters)

The new amendment is just the latest in a string of legislation and rhetoric by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's nationalist Fidesz party that targets LGBTQ people, Muslims and immigrants. Orban has worked to recast Hungary in a conservative mould since winning a third successive landslide in 2018.

Earlier this year, Hungary's government banned gender change on personal documents, and condemned children's books that portray diversity positively.

The new definition of family also touches on gender, while mandating parents raise their children under conservative, Christian values. 

"Hungary defends the right of children to identify with their birth gender and ensures their upbringing based on our nation's constitutional identity and values based on our Christian culture," it reads.

It is not right. This is pure discrimination, which shouldn't happen.- Martin Pal

Pal became emotional when he spoke about how these laws will affect the next generation of LGBTQ people in his country. 

"I'm 37, I have a husband, I have a kid, I have a family. But imagine if there's someone who is, I don't know, 16-, 18-years-old, starting his life and they are part of the LGBTQ community," he said, fighting back sobs. 

"What [can they] expect? How [can they] have a family? How [can they] live a full life if the constitution is stating that they are not equal and they are not normal? It is not right. This is pure discrimination, which shouldn't happen. And these kids, they need hope."

David Vig, director of Amnesty International in Hungary, called it "a dark day for Hungary's LGBTQ community and a dark day for human rights."

The whole thing has Pal wondering whether he should raise his own son Hungary.

"We would like to stay in this country … because we have a good quality of life here. Hungary is a good country. It's a beautiful country. And our families are here," he said.

"I think it's a good place to be a kid, as well for our son to stay close to the origin that he has and the culture he's part of. But obviously, we will not give up to have to have a brother or sister for him."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview with Martin Pal produced by Sarah Jackson.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now