Hungarian parliament bans gender recognition in landslide vote

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday May 27, 2020
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Photo: Associated Press
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Photo: Associated Press

Hungary's lawmakers recently voted 133-57 to pass a bill that defines an individual's sex registered at birth, effectively banning future gender identity changes.

There were four abstentions.

The new bill amends the Central European country's Registry Act. It sets individuals' gender at birth with no ability to alter their legal documents to their preferred gender identity later in life. It was led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right-wing Fidesz party.

Until the May 19 parliamentary vote, transgender Hungarians could legally change their gender and name on government-issued documents. However, the process was suspended for nearly two years, according to experts.

Trans and allied leaders were outraged by the bill's passage, calling it dangerous and unconstitutional, in a May 19 news release responding to the bill's passage.

LGBT advocates anticipate Hungarian President Janos Ader, a close ally of Orban, will sign the bill into law.

Masen Davis, a trans man who is the interim executive director of Transgender Europe, said the law would subject transgender people to "increased scrutiny, discrimination, and violence."

Krisztina Tam�s-S�r�y, a researcher at Amnesty International, said it will "deepen an already intolerant and hostile environment faced by the LGBTI community," in a May 19 statement.

Advocates said that transgender and intersex Hungarians' human rights and dignity should be respected by having their gender identity legally protected and recognized.

They are worried that those who have transitioned might find their status challenged or overturned.

Lawmakers went directly against three separate rulings by the Hungarian Constitutional Court that decided that gender and name changes by transgender people are "a fundamental human right," according to experts. The court's rulings were in line with rulings made by the European Court of Human Rights.

The bill even goes against a majority of Hungarians who are increasingly supportive of transgender and LGB rights, according to polls conducted within the past three years. This is despite backlashes against the community by Hungarian conservatives.

A poll published by Median in September 2019 found that 70% of respondents believed that transgender people should have access to legal gender recognition. Only 17% disagreed, responding that transgender people shouldn't legally be able to change their gender or name under any circumstance.

A 2017 poll conducted by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association found that more than 60% of the country's residents believe equal rights should be afforded to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, reported CNN.

The most recent anti-gay attack happened last August when Hungarian conservative activists boycotted Coca-Cola for its ads showing gays kissing.

Hungarian LGBT and ally community, professional, and government leaders, along with international leaders, signed onto ILGA-Europe and TGEU's #drop33 campaign to amend the bill.

Hungary currently recognizes legal unions for same-sex couples, but Orban opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Hungary is a member of the European Union. However, CNN reported that EU leaders have warned that laws passed under Orban's administration undermine the country's democracy.


The opportunistic timing of the bill's proposal, during the global novel coronavirus pandemic, and its introduction in the Hungarian parliament by Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen on Transgender Visibility Day, March 31, hasn't been lost on LGBT advocates.

The pandemic paved the way for Hungary's parliament to grant Orban the power to rule by decree indefinitely, meaning other lawmakers don't have to be consulted before making policy decisions.

The bill is among "alarming signals of how governments with strong authoritarian tendencies are emboldened by the crisis to further limit the rights of vulnerable groups and minorities," Darienne Flemington, co-chair of the ILGA-Europe executive board, told CNN.

Davis criticized the Hungarian Parliament, stating in a release that lawmakers should focus on protecting citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than "using this crisis as cover to roll back the rights of an already-marginalized group."

Hungary's anti-trans government defended the law, stating it doesn't prevent people from "living according their identity" or "exercising their fundamental rights arising from their human dignity," reported CNN.

The conservative country's queer community, especially transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, are at risk to discrimination and violence, especially with the passage of the bill, advocates said.

"People who haven't had suicidal thoughts for decades now are having them," Tina Korlos Orban, vice president of Hungarian advocacy group Transvanilla Transgender Association, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "People are in panic, people want to escape from Hungary to somewhere else where they can get their gender recognized."

Tam�s-S�r�y stated that the bill "pushes Hungary back toward the dark ages and tramples the rights of transgender and intersex people."

The advocates called upon �der not to sign the law and to send it to Hungary's Constitutional Court for review.

Tam�s-S�r�y urged the country's human rights leaders and top courts to take swift action to review and annul the bill.

Hungarian LGBT leaders vowed not to stop fighting against the law.

Transvanilla posted a call to action to continue to fight against the bill and launched a petition with All Out that has garnered more than 25,000 signatures.

Chinese LGBT activists slam officials' rejection of SSM petition

Chinese marriage equality activists have slammed Chinese officials for rejecting consideration of same-sex marriage, claiming that petitions the leaders received were an "organized act."

Legislators gathered in Beijing for their annual meeting May 22. It is expected that the legislature will enact the country's first civil code, however, same-sex marriage won't be included, according to an official.

The civil code has undergone five rounds of review and more than 1 million suggestions since it was announced in 2014, reported the Southern China Morning Post.

Huang Wei, an official with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, rejected requests to include same-sex marriage in the new civil code.

Last November, China's legislature received more than 200,000 suggestions from the public for the marriage and family section of the country's first-ever civil code.

"The letters sent to us came in the same envelope, with the same content, and the online messages were the same — it's all been copied and pasted," Huang told May 18.

Therefore, marriage will remain defined as "between a man and a woman" and the government wouldn't be entertaining calls from LGBT activists to include same-sex marriage.

"These are not reasons to reject same-sex marriage," said Sun Wenlin, an LGBT activist, told reporters. "She should've talked about what research they did, what discussions and analysis there had been, and what kind of debates remained."

Sun legally challenged China and lost his case to marry his partner, Hu Mingliang, in 2015.

Spurred by the National People's Congress public acknowledgement of petitions to legalize same-sex marriage earlier this year and Taiwan gaining marriage equality last year, they launched a program May 20 on China's WeChat that allows people to hold a "virtual wedding."

The program will continue to be pushed out through a variety of networks.

Additionally, Sun and other LGBT activists who have spent years rallying and urging LGBT couples and families to write to the legislature about their personal experiences aren't deterred by the recent government rejection. They vow to continue their efforts during the legislative meeting.

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp: 415-517-7239, or Skype: heather.cassell, or [email protected]

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