Hungary approves national referendum on Russia-style ‘gay propaganda’ law

Hungarian voters will head to the polls in 2022 to weigh in on LGBTQ+ rights

Hungary will head to the polls to vote on LGBTQ+ rights in 2022 after its parliament approved a nationwide referendum on its controversial “gay propaganda” law.

On Tuesday, Hungary’s National Assembly voted unanimously to poll voters on four questions related to the law, which was passed in June. Although the exact wording of the questions has not been made publicly available, the government will reportedly ask citizens whether “sexual orientation workshops” should be held in schools “without parents’ consent” and if they “believe gender reassignment procedures should be promoted among children,” according to Reuters

A third question pertains to a provision of the law banning shows that depict queer and trans lives, such as Modern Family, from being shown during primetime. Those guidelines led Hungary’s media regulators to unveil new rules in September restricting films that feature LGBTQ+ issues as a “defining feature” to viewers over 18. LGBTQ+-inclusive films will now bear the same rating as violent horror films like Saw.

Cabinet leader Antal Rogán urged Hungarians to vote “no” on all four questions, per Hungary Today. Rogán referred to the “propaganda” ban, which was modeled on 2013 legislation passed in Russia, as a “child protection law” and vowed that the government would mount “a robust campaign” to ensure the referendum’s passage. 

“We are committed,” added Deputy Minister Balázs Orbán in comments reported by Reuters. “We believe that we… have to say ‘no’ to LGBTQ propaganda in schools carried out with the help of NGOs and media, without parental consent.”

“EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen criticized the law, proclaiming that it ‘goes against the fundamental values of the European Union.’”

The referendum is likely to escalate Hungary’s months-long standoff with the European Union over its anti-LGBTQ+ actions. EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen criticized the law following its enactment, proclaiming that it “goes against the fundamental values of the European Union: human dignity, equality and respect for human rights.” In a statement, von der Leyen suggested that she would “use all the powers” granted to her office to “ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed.”

The EU initiated legal action against Hungary in July, and the case is likely to be heard by the European Court of Justice, which has the power to levy significant fines against Hungarian leaders. Von der Leyen has also threatened monetary sanctions if the law is not repealed.


Hungary has repeatedly signalled that it does not intend to back off its continued crackdown on the LGBTQ+ community after banning same-sex adoptions and legal gender marker corrections last year. In announcing plans to hold a referendum vote, Hungary’s far-right president, Viktor Orbán, claimed the law was necessary to prevent “LGBTQ activists going into kindergartens and schools to provide sexual information. 

“That is what Brussels bureaucrats want in Hungary, too,” he said in comments reported by Hungary Today. “Our children’s future is at stake and we cannot make concessions in this case.”

The referendum has not yet been scheduled but is likely to take place on the same day as the 2022 federal elections. Orbán, who has held power since 2010, is facing his strongest electoral challenge in years following his perceived mishandling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. More than 34,500 Hungarians have died from complications due to the novel coronavirus, the sixth most of any country in the world when accounting for population size.

The opposition, which has formed a six-party bloc, led Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party by four points in an October poll.

Nico Lang

Nico Lang is an award-winning reporter and editor, and former contributing editor at Xtra. Their work has been featured in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Washington Post, Vox, BuzzFeed, Jezebel, The Guardian, Out, The Advocate, and the L.A. Times.

Read More About:
Politics, Power, News, Europe, Homophobia, Hungary

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