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The Official Journal of the EU publishes today a summary of the application lodged on 19 December 2022 by the European Commission to the Court of Justice of the European Union against Hungary. This appeal pertains to national legislation discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to the Commission, the Hungarian law violates some internal market rules, the fundamental rights of individuals (particularly LGBTQI+ people) and the values of the EU. The Hungarian law on "strengthening measures against pedophile offenders and amending certain laws for the protection of children" stipulates that content that "represents or promotes different gender identity at birth, gender reassignment or homosexuality" is prohibited for persons under the age of 18.
Hungary's referral to the Court of Justice of the EU is the next step in the infringement procedure launched by the Commission against Hungary on 15 July 2021. Following the vote of this Hungarian law, on June 22, 2021, some 18 European member states adopted a joint statement upon Belgium’s initiative in which they expressed their concern about these Hungarian amendments that – under the guise of child protection – discriminate against LGBTQI+ people and violate the right to freedom of speech. Member States condemned the legislation as blatantly discriminating against and stigmatizing LGBTQI+ people. The legislation also clearly violates the freedom of expression enshrined in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. The joint statement called on the European Commission to take all possible actions to ensure compliance with European laws, including the involvement of the EU Court of Justice. This is now a fact.
An intervention by Belgium in this appeal before the Court is therefore a logical follow-up to the 2021 statement. In addition, combating discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) is a priority in the Belgian domestic and foreign policy. In May 2022, the federal Council of Ministers gave its approval to the new, third national action plan entitled “For an LGBTQI+ friendly Belgium”. One of the operational objectives of this plan is to take the lead on the rights of LGBTQI+ people at the international and European level.
With the publication of the court case in the Official Journal of the EU, Belgium can request the Court of Justice of the EU to participate in the proceedings. In its intervention before the Court, Belgium will support the European Commission, reiterate the concerns expressed in its 2021 statement and defend the rights of the LGBTQI+ community.
Minister of European Affairs Lahbib: “The fight against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression has always been a priority for our country. We note that the rights of the LGBTQI+ community are under increasing pressure in many places, including within Europe. That was made clear to us again last week during a meeting with, among others, human rights NGOs, which was organized at my request during my visit to Hungary. It is a worrying trend that needs to be reversed. That is why Belgium – after putting the case on the international agenda – will now also intervene before the European Court of Justice to defend the rights of LGBTQI+ people. Our country has the firm ambition to continue playing a pioneering role both nationally and internationally.”
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