EU Heads to LGBTQ Showdown as Merkel, Draghi Chide Orban

European Union leaders lambasted Viktor Orban’s latest anti-LGBTQ legislation, setting the stage for a showdown with the Hungarian prime minister during a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

“Hate, intolerance and discrimination have no place in our Union,” leaders tweeted in a coordinated move on Thursday, publishing a letter signed by government heads from 16 EU member states including Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Mario Draghi.

“We are committed to carry on with this effort, making sure that future European generations grow up in an atmosphere of equality and respect,” the leaders wrote, without naming Hungary or Orban directly. Austria’s Sebastian Kurz added his signature later, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said in a tweet.

“I will be intolerant with intolerance,” Bettel told journalists in Brussels. “This will be my fight today.” Luxembourg’s prime minister married his husband Gauthier Destenay in May 2015.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the law is discriminatory and cannot be tolerated.

“The Hungarian law is an idiotic law, which discriminates against people on the basis of who they want to be. Europe is a club with rules. You can’t say you want to be financed by Europe, but I’ll keep the rules at arm’s length,” he told reporters Thursday. “This goes too far.” European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs the summit, said leaders will address the topic over dinner on Thursday evening.

Orban said on his arrival at the summit that he would tell fellow leaders about the law: “Please read it.” He added: “I am a fighter for their rights, I am a freedom fighter in the Communist regime, homosexuality was punished and I fought for their freedom and their right, so I am defending the rights of homosexual guys but this law is not about this, it is about the rights of the kids and the parents.”

The EU leaders’ move is the latest escalation in an increasingly heated argument over Hungary’s bill curtailing LGBTQ rights. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen initiated legal proceedings against Hungary state over the bill, which pairs the LGBTQ community with pedophilia. The legislation extends rules adopted last year that effectively ban same-sex partners from adopting children and enshrine in the constitution that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Hungary is ready to defend the bill in the courts. “The law doesn’t need to be amended, it’s good just the way it is,” Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas said at a briefing in Budapest on Thursday. He reiterated that Orban’s government believes the regulation was passed to “protect children.”

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