Hungarian Election Commitee refuses referendum on banning advertisement of homosexuality

On August 31, 2009 the National Election Committee refused to validate the signature-collection sheet for a referendum on banning advertisement of homosexuality. The Committee argued that the phrase „advertisement of homosexuality” is not clear enough and the referendum would go against the constitutional protection of free speech.

On August 11, 2009 Tibor Gyurka head of a marginal political party submitted a request to start collecting signatures for a referendum. The initiative would have put the following question on the ballot: “Would you like the Parliament to pass a law banning the public advertisement of homosexuality?” After a heated debate the National Election Committee decided that the question cannot be put on the ballot. The Committee argued that according to the law on advertisement, advertisement aims at promoting products and services, or enterprises involved in their production or distribution. Since homosexuality fits neither of these categories, it cannot be advertised. Since no other precise definition of advertisement is available, it is not clear what kind of legislative duty a successful referendum would put on the legislator. The Committee also added that such a legislation would have to restrict the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution.

The initiator of the referendum can appeal the decision to the Constitutional Court. If the Court does not agree with the reasoning of the Committee, it sends the question back for reconsideration. If the Committee does validate the question, the initiator has to collect 200,000 signatures. Once the signatures are submitted and checked a referendum is held, which – if successful – obliges the Parliament to adopt legislation in line with the initiative. The referendum is successful if the majority of the voters, but at least 25% of all registered voters support the initiative.

Initiating referenda has been a popular activity amongst people outside of the political mainstream for the past two years. The National Election Committee has refused to validate initiatives on issues ranging from re-categorizing dogs as livestock to guaranteeing free beer for everyone. In 2007 an initiative for a referendum on same sex marriage has lead the Constitutional Court to declare unambiguously for the first time that it considers same sex marriage to be incompatible with the constitutional protection of marriage.

 

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