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Hungary's anti-LGBTQ referendum fails after 1.6 million spoilt votes

The referendum focused on banning LGBTQ content for under-18s in the conservative country.

2022-04-05

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki

A Hungarian referendum on LGBTQ issues has failed after being declared invalid after a large number of ballots were spoiled by voters.

Despite winning a fourth successive term in office in Sunday's election Viktor Orbán's hoped-for victory in the separate referendum was thankfully denied to him.

While the leader of the right-wing Fidesz party claimed it was about protecting children, the referendum was seen as discriminatory towards the country's LGBTQ community.

Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán in 2015 (Photo: Wiki)

The referendum was announced following the passing of a law last year which effectively bans content about homosexuality and gender change to under-18s. The LGBTQ amendments were tacked onto a law to protect children from paedophilia.

It's based on Russia's 2013 'gay propaganda law' which was itself arguably inspired by Britain's own Section 28, introduced under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in 1988 and in effect until 2003.

In the run-up to the election and the referendum, Orbán painted himself as a defender of traditional Hungarian values and against what he calls the "LGBT ideology"

According to CBC, voters were asked: 

- Do you support the teaching of sexual orientation to underage children in public education institutions without parental consent?
- Do you support the promotion of sex reassignment therapy for underage children?
- Do you support the unrestricted exposure of underage children to sexually explicit media content that may affect their development?
- Do you support the showing of sex-change media content to minors?

Hungary's National Election Office ruled that all four questions had no legal status as fewer than 45 percent of eligible voters cast a valid vote. However, 90 percent of valid votes chose 'no for all four questions. 

The rights group Hatter Tarsasag was among those urging voters to spoil their ballots with about 1.6 million votes, almost a third, were invalid

While this means the referendum result is invalid, Bloomberg reports that Orbán has declared similar results as a win in the past and could do so again. 

Last year, the EU's Venice Commission, a group of independent experts on constitutional law, found that the law violates international human rights standards.

The European Union also began legal action over Hungary on the issue arguing that the law goes against freedom of expression and information, as well as freedom to provide services and movement of goods.