Hungarian Parliament debates homophobic family protection bill

 flickr - BabyDinosaur)After adopting a constitution that defines marriage as a union between a woman and a man, the Hungarian Parliament is currently debating a bill on family protection that would only consider households based on marriage or filiation as family. Hungarian LGBT NGOs and opposition parties strongly criticize the discriminatory approach of the bill that not only excludes same-sex registered partners, but also those heterosexual couples who do not wish to get married.

The bill submitted by three Christian Democratic MPs wishes to strengthen the institution of family “an institution that predates law and the state” and which “is based on moral grounds”. The preamble states that “being raised in families is more secure than any other forms of upbringing” and that “families fulfill their role if the stable and firm relationship of a mother and a father is consummated by taking responsibility for a child”. The bill would define family as a “relationship between natural persons in an economic and emotional community that is based on a marriage between a woman and a man, or lineal descent, or family-based guardianship.” According to the new Constitution the bill would become a cardinal law, that is, repealing it in the future would require two thirds of the votes in Parliament, which makes it as difficult to change as the Constitution itself.

The Hungarian LGBT Alliance – an umbrella organization bringing together LGBT groups – called for the rejection of the bill in its written opinion. They claim the bill has not been properly discussed: the Government circumvented the compulsory consultation with civil society by submitting the bill through individual MPs, rather than through the regular procedure. This highly objectionable method has been widely used by the current conservative government with controversial bills such as the heavily criticized new media law or the law on the electoral system.

At the center of the criticism of the Alliance is the notion of “family” which they claim is too restrictive, excludes a large number of really existing families, does not comply with the notion of family as prescribed by the European Court of Human Rights and the Hungarian Constitutional Court, and would create legal uncertainty as many other pieces of legislation include a broader definition of family or family member. The bill also runs in clear opposition to previous claims by the conservative government that they would not alter the registered partnership legislation adopted by the previous Parliament with a social-liberal majority.

The NGO critique was widely shared by the socialist and green opposition parties who rejected the outdated, exclusionary approach of the law which would “create a hierarchy between various forms of family”. Several amendments to the law were submitted that would broaden the definition of family, recognize the diversity of family forms, and prohibit discrimination among various types of families and between families based on biological or social ties. None of these amendments were supported by the relevant committees, and further amendments coming from the Christian Democrats that would prescribe that the same notion of family should be used in the whole Hungarian legal system and which would limit inheritance rights to children and parents and to spouses (excluding registered partners) was supported by the governing parties and the representative of the Government as well.

Amendments will be voted on by the plenary session of the Parliament on December 19, the final vote is scheduled for December 23. The new law would enter into force on January 1, 2012, just a few days after its adoption.

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