BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A Hungarian court has requested constitutional review of a law disallowing transgender individuals from changing their names and genders in official documents, a potential blow to a wave of recent legislation restricting the rights of LGBTQ Hungarians.
In its decision last week, the Miskolc Regional Court in eastern Hungary ruled in favor of petitioners that argued the law violates constitutional rights to human dignity and private life, according to a statement Tuesday from Hungary’s largest LGBTQ rights group Hatter Society.
The constitutional court now has 90 days to make a ruling on the law’s constitutionality.
The law, part of an omnibus bill passed by Hungary’s parliament in May, stipulates that the “biological sex” of a person is permanently defined by their chromosomes at birth, making it impossible for transgender individuals to petition the government to change their genders or names in official records. The law’s authors argued that one’s biological sex can't be changed, and that it was therefore necessary to apply the same rules in public registries.
Critics say the law contradicts earlier decisions by both the European Court of Human Rights and Hungary’s Constitutional Court, and that it would increase discrimination against transgender people and force them to reveal themselves as such when presenting official documents.
Prior to its passage, 63 members of the European Parliament sent a letter to Hungarian officials asking them to revoke the bill, and rights group Amnesty International said it brought Hungary “back to the dark ages.” Numerous other individuals and organizations — including several commissioners of the United Nations, the human rights commissioners of France, the Netherlands and Germany, and a resolution by the European Parliament — condemned the legislation.
In an email to The Associated Press, communications officer for Hatter Society Luca Dudits said the Miskolc court’s decision “reflects what we have been saying and repeating since the very proposal of the bill: that it is unconstitutional and goes against domestic and international human rights standards.”
The law on transgender recognition is part of a broader effort by Hungary’s right-wing government to stifle what it calls “gender ideology,” and to preserve what it considers the country’s status as a traditional Christian society.
Same-sex marriage was constitutionally banned in Hungary in 2012, but civil partnerships are recognized. However, a legal proposal submitted on Nov. 10 by Justice Minister Judit Varga states that only married couples may adopt children, effectively barring same-sex couples from doing so.
Varga also proposed a constitutional amendment that would change the constitutional definition of families to exclude transgender and LGBTQ individuals. The proposed amendment defines the basis of the family as “marriage and the parent-child relationship,” and states that “the mother is a woman and the father is a man.”
The amendment also declares that the Hungarian state “protects children’s right to the gender identity they were born with and ensures their upbringing based on our national self-identification and Christian culture.”
Earlier steps taken by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party point to an adversarial approach to LGBTQ issues, such as a 2018 ban on gender studies programs in Hungarian universities. In justifying the decision, deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjen said the discipline had no place in academia since gender studies “is an ideology, not a science.”
Hungary has also refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a European treaty on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, saying it represents an “attack on the traditional family model.”
“(The convention) tries to implant a gender philosophy, which we will never accept,” Fidesz vice-chair Szilard Nemeth said in 2017.
The speaker of Hungary’s parliament, Laszlo Kover, has compared same-sex adoption to pedophilia, and in October, Orban equated homosexuality with child abuse when he spoke out against a Hungarian children’s book that took an inclusive approach to LGBTQ issues.
“There are laws in Hungary which concern homosexuality. Hungarians are patient and tolerant of this phenomenon, and we tolerate provocation as well,” Orban said in an interview with public radio station Kossuth Radio. “But there is a red line which cannot be crossed. Leave our children alone!”
Dudits, of Hatter Society, said the organization is pleased with the Miskolc court’s decision, but that questions over the independence of the Constitutional Court could mean the law will remain in force and that the wave of similar measures would continue.
“Recently, we have seen a number of regulations that affect the LGBTQI community, and we believe that this is their way of scapegoating the community to reap votes in the upcoming election,” Dudits said.