BUDAPEST – Hungarian politics and LGBT+ rights: it seems to be contradictory. In recent years, Viktor Orban’s government has been portrayed as the defender of the European conservative & catholic identity. Their policies are focussed on the traditional nuclear family. Non-traditional families their life’s are made very difficult. Orban’s party – Fidesz – changed the definition of marriage in the constitution to a union between partners of the opposite sex in 2011.
Everyone who ever went on a city trip to Budapest must be confused about how this Western-looking city with its big alternative scene can be the capital of one of the most homo- and transphobic governments in the European Union.
Eastern Europe expert Rémy Bonny went to the Hungarian capital and had an interview with Katalin Cseh, one of the spitzenkandidaten for the European liberals and Momentum’s leader for the European elections of May 26. Dániel Turgonyi, leader of Momentum’s LGBT+ group also joined the interview.
Momentum is an exception in the Hungarian political landscape in regard to LGBT+ rights. It is the only political party who is in favour of unconditional LGBT+ equality: ‘same-sex marriage is a fundamental human right’.
‘The other left-wing or liberal parties see the LGBT+ community as a political risk. We are the only alternative to the conservative policies of Orban for the LGBT+ community’, according to Cseh.
‘The Social-Democrats (MSZP) only care about the LGBT+ community during Budapest Pride. The Greens (LMP) don’t even take part in Pride’, continues Turgonyi.
The center liberal party believes it is the task of the government to educate the society about LGBT+ equality. “Yes – the Hungarian society is conservative. But we can’t just exclude certain groups from society anno 2019. To build a progressive and modern society the government needs to undertake actions.”
The outcomes of recent opinion polls about LGBT+ equality are very mixed. A 2016 poll for ILGA-Europe stated that 64% of the Hungarians are in favour of equal rights for homosexual and heterosexual people. Another poll – by Pew Research Centre – revealed that only 27% of the Hungarian society is in favour of marriage equality.
Pew Research Centre’s research also showed that Hungary is doing much worse than neighbouring countries Austria(72%), Czech Republic (65%) and Slovakia(47%). Hungary is more or less on the same level as Poland(32%), Croatia(31%) and Romania(26%).
Cseh: ’We should not compare ourselves with countries that don’t make any progress. We should compare ourselves with countries like Ireland: once very conservative and religious – but still they were able to introduce same-sex marriage’.
Turgonyi explains the numbers by referring to the current political situation: “Since Viktor Orban is in power, we don’t see any progress in the views of the society in regard to LGBT+ rights. However, the Czechs and Slovaks have a very similar society and there we obviously see progress.‘
New family policy
Recently, the Hungarian government made headlines of international tabloids with the announcement of their renewed family policy. The content wasn’t that shocking, but the campaign on the streets led to a hilarious situation. A ‘happy traditional couple’ was portrayed. However, for one of the billboards the Hungarian government bought a stock photo. And who was the couple? The couple who’s internationally well-known for the ‘Distracted Boyfriend’-memes.
But according to Cseh, there is something fundamentally wrong about this new policy. ‘It is anything but inclusive. Homosexual couples, but also heterosexual singles with children are being excluded. Only traditional and married families receive the advantages. It’s not a coincidence that they are also the main voters of Fidesz (the political party of Viktor Orban).’
The new family policy plan is a way to fight the demographic decline of the Hungarian society. The government sees that as one of the biggest challenges for the Central European country. Homosexual couples are being portrayed as one of the causes for this decline. A similar discourse is happening in Russia.
Besides a very extensive child allowance for heterosexual families, also just married straight couples get an allowance of 5000HUF (more or less €15) the first 24 months of their marriage. By doing this, the Hungarian administration wants to create favourable conditions to start a traditional family.
Recently, Orban announced an alliance with the Polish government to dominate the European election campaign.
‘If I get elected on May 26 as a Member of the European Parliament, I will fight against corruption within the EU. The Hungarian government uses tax money of all Europeans to establish a corrupt and autocratic regime. Therefore, I will argue to set up a real European Prosecutor’s Office. This has to protect the fundamental human rights which the European Union is based on.’, according to Cseh.
‘If it comes to LGBT+ rights, I believe that the biggest challenge still is a well-developed anti-discrimination legislation. If the EU wants to be a successful project, they have to move from being solely an economic and monetary union to a social and cultural union. Every EU citizen should have the right to a personal life – whatever his or her background. This means that marriages should be open to all sexes.’, Cseh concludes.
Recent opinion polls suggest that Cseh and her party Momentum do have a reasonable chance to get elected for the European Parliament. Nevertheless, there’s a huge difference between voters on the countryside and Budapest.
This article was previously published in Dutch by ZIZO.