In a surprising move, Hungarian President Katalin Novak rejected the new law that restricts the rights of homosexual and transsexual people on April 21. It marks the first time that Novak, a former Fidesz minister who has been 11 months in office, objected to a law that is of great importance to Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
On April 11, parliament approved legislation with a two-thirds majority that aimed to transpose an EU directive protecting whistleblowers, but a clause in the law stipulates that citizens can anonymously report same-sex couples raising children together for breaching "constitutionally recognised role of marriage and the family".
According to the Hungarian president, the legal text does not comply with EU directives which are supposed to protect whistleblowers in institutions and companies and the controversial chapter "does not strengthen but rather weakens the protection of fundamental values", Novak wrote in a letter to parliament.
The ruling radical rightwing party has approved a string of legislation over the years targeting gay and queer people. Hungary’s constitution defines and protects the definition of marriage as an institution "between one man and one woman" while adding that "the mother is a woman, the father is a man".
During Novak’s term as family minister (2020-2021), the government erected legal obstacles for the adoption of children by same-sex couples, requiring the approval of the minister and parliament approved legislation that bans gender change from being recognised in official documents. Earlier this year, Hungary’s highest court ruled that the law complies with the Basic Law (Constitution).
Orban put dividing cultural issues at the forefront of the 2022 election campaign as he sought to portray himself as the defender of Christian values.
In the summer of 2021, parliament approved the controversial anti-gay law, dubbed the child-protection law, which bans the portrayal of homosexuality and sex reassignment in school education material and TV programmes addressed to people under 18 years of age. A referendum on "child protection law" was held on the same day as the election, which failed as fewer than 50% of eligible voters cast valid ballots.
The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over the regulation and more than a dozen EU nations joined the lawsuit, which will be "the largest human rights case in EU legal history".
Despite the pressure, the government does not seem likely to back down on the issue. According to recent reports, overturning the regulation will be one of the conditions for Hungary to access frozen EU funds.
Katalin Novak, a former minister and a vice president of the ruling Fidesz party, become Hungary’s first female president and the youngest head of state when she took over the presidency in May 2022 from Janos Ader, who served 10 years.
Novak will have no option but to sign the legislation if parliament passes it again.