In March 2012 a gay couple visited the historic Király Thermal Bath in Budapest. They were sitting around, chatting and exchanged a few kisses - like any other couple in a bath would do. Their behaviour, however, enraged another guest, who demanded using very rude words that the couple stop their activity. The guest also complained to the staff, who instead of taking action against the harassing guest, asked the couple to leave. The couple turned to the legal aid service of Háttér Support Society for LGBT People, and launched a complaint with the Equal Treatment Authority.
During the procedure the bath claimed that the couple purported behaviour running against public morals, and thus disrupted the order of the bath. According to the bath, standards of public morality are set by the majority of guests present in the bath at any given time. The decision of the Authority, on the other hand found that - based on the case law of the Hungarian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights - the notion of public morality may not coincide with that of the majority, the purpose of the law is to protect minorities from the prejudices of the majority.
“Of course service providers are entitled to impose behavioural rules on guests, but they cannot set different rules, or apply those rules differently to same-sex couples” - says Tamás Dombos, who works at the legal aid service of Háttér. “This case is only the tip of the iceberg: our service has been informed of dozens of similar cases where no legal action was taken. The case shows that it does make sense to fight these incidents via legal tools.”
The decision of the Equal Treatment Authority is not binding yet, the bath has 30 days to request the judicial review of the decision.