15 EU countries join lawsuit against Hungary

On the deadline of 6 April 2023, 15 EU Member States and the European Parliament had confirmed their participation to the lawsuit launched by the European Commission against Hungary’s ‘anti-LGBTIQ+ propaganda law’. With this unprecedented support, this lawsuit became the largest human rights case in EU legal history.

Following the publication of the case (see press release), Belgium was the first country to announce its support, quickly joined by Luxembourg and The Netherlands. In the following weeks, the European Paliament and six others Member States announced their support: Portugal, Denmark, Austria, Malta, Spain, and Ireland. They were followed by Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Greece, France, and Germany during the deadline extension for the application of intervene.

This historic coalition of EU institutions and Member States sends a strong message to Viktor Orbán regarding the defense of our core values of equality, inclusion, and rule of law. His Russian-inspired policies against the fundamental human rights of LGBTIQ+ people will not be tolerated in the EU. From Brussels to Valletta, Lisbon to Helsinki, The Hague to Ljubljana, Dublin to Athens, Orbán has been clearly told ‘Enough!’.

Principled Benelux Member States lead the way

This resounding victory for the protection of the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people in the EU has highlighted a change of dynamics in Europe. Today, the strongest allies of human rights defenders are to be found in the Benelux. Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, joined the case in less than 48 hours. 

On the other hand, the Franco-German motor has been sputtering when it came to defend the fundamental values of the EU and the human rights of its citizens. France and Germany waited till the very last hours of the 7 weeks window granted by the EU court to announce their support to the lawsuit. Seeing the two oldest and largest Member States of the EU not taking the lead in the defense of our most fundamental EU values of equality, inclusion, and respect of human dignity sends an alarming signal to all LGBTIQ+ communities in Europe.

This lack of leadership is a source of worry. First, because it has hindered the participation of additional Member States, such as Czechia, who expected the largest countries to pave the way. Second, because France and Germany’s commitment to EU fundamental values needs to be clear and strong at a time where so called ‘anti-gender’ and ‘anti-LGBTIQ+’ movements are spreading their hateful narratives in the Union.

This threat is clearly demonstrated by the turnaround of Italy. In 2021, the progressive Italian government committed to support lawsuits regarding the rights of LGBTIQ+ people. Two years later, the government of Giorgia Meloni – a key figure of the anti-LGBTIQ+ movement in Europe – has refused to honor this commitment. Italy ends up being the only country that has clearly turned its back on LGBTIQ+ people by not joining the lawsuit.

“A majority of EU member states has said enough to Viktor Orbán copy-pasting the Kremlin’s anti-LGBTIQ+ ideology. Europe has never been so united and determined on LGBTIQ+ rights. That’s what Orbán has achieved.”

Rémy Bonny

Executive Director, Forbidden Colours

The fall of the ‘pink curtain’

If Italy is the biggest dissappointment, the participation of Slovenia in the lawsuit deserves to be hailed as one of the greatest victories. The progressive coalition now in power in Ljubljana joined the case whereas the former conservative government had made no commitment to do so in 2021. The participation of Slovenia demonstrates that what has been labelled as the ‘pink curtain’ is crumbling.

This is strengthened by the declaration of the new coalition in power in Tallin to introduce marriage equality in Estonia. We expect that the Estonian government to be invested Saturday 8 April will also join the lawsuit at a later stage[1].

With Slovenia and Estonia leading the way, the defense of the fundamental rights of LGBTIQ+ people is no longer following an ‘East/West divide’ as Viktor Orbán likes to portrait it. Viktor Orbán has made sure the EU stands more and more united in the defense of the human rights of its LGBTIQ+ citizens and more resilient against Kremlin’s attempts to destabilize Europe.

“15 EU governments and the European Parliament have clearly understood the major threat posed to our most fundamental EU values by Viktor Orbán’s hateful policies. Building such a strong coalition is a great success for the more than 13 300 citizens and the dozens of LGBTIQ+ and human rights organisations that have supported Forbidden Colours and Reclaim in asking EU Member States to stand up against anti-LGBTIQ+ laws.”

Vincent Reillon

Outreach & Policy Officer, Forbidden Colours

Next steps: a long way to the final ruling

The legal procedure at the EU court will now enter in its second phase. The participating Member States will receive the arguments from the European Commission and will have a few weeks to provide their own arguments in a written procedure. Based on the information collected, the judge rapporteur will draft a preliminary report. The EU court may then hold a hearing in the autumn 2023 and the Advocate General will provide their opinion. A final ruling is expected in summer 2024.[2]

“The Commission’s decision to present Article 2 of the TEU as a free-standing plea represents a significant shift in protecting democracy and human dignity within Member States, especially for the LGTBQI+ community. I strongly urge all Member States, especially founding members, to reinforce the EU’s and their own countries’ resilience against autocratic shocks by firmly supporting this plea.”

Esther Martinez

Executive Director, Reclaim

Our role in building the case

Back in 2021, Forbidden Colours was the organization to reveal the preparation of this ‘anti-LGBTIQ+ propaganda law’ in international media. We immediately calledfor the Commission and the Member States to work together against this law. Since then, we worked tirelessly to make sure that this law would be brought in front of the Court of Justice of the EU.

In December 2022, we alerted on the fact that the European Commission had still not filed the case, despite having made the announcement to do so in July 2022. We started a partnership with Reclaim and Hátter Society, travelling together to EU capitals to raise awareness on the importance for Member States to join the case. These efforts unblock a legal deadlock at the Commissions side and the European Commission finally filed the case on 19 December 2022.

On 13 February 2023, the date the case was officially published, Forbidden Colours launched a petition which received the support of 13 373 concerned EU citizens. Forbidden Colours then reached out to all EU Foreign Ministers asking every Member State to join the procedure. In this process, we gathered the support of dozens of local, national, and European LGBTIQ+ and human rights NGOs.

“For almost two years now, we have been fighting against the so-called ‘child protection’ law, hearing every day about how it lets young people down. In the heart of Europe, you shouldn’t have to buy an LGBTQI storybook from under the counter, nor should teachers worry about whether they can talk about LGBTQI topics when their student is being bullied. We’ll continue our work for a Hungary that is free and safe for everyone. To receive such an international support form our European family is reassuring and gives us strength to keep fighting.”

Luca Dudits

Board Member, Háttér Society

[1] Article 129.4 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court allows for a late application to intervene to be considered even after the time limit has expired (April 6th at 23:59), but before the oral part of the Procedure is opened (in autumn 2023). If the President allows the intervention, the Member States can submit their “observations” during the oral hearing directly.

[2] Journalists can address procedural questions can be directly to Esther Martinez, Esther.martinez@reclaiming.eu – or check this factsheet.

Background documents