LGBTQIA+ matters in Hungary

Róbert Buzsáki (Háttér Society Legal Program)

Before the upcoming EAA 2022 Annual Meeting in Budapest, Hungary, the EAA executive board contacted Háttér Society, the oldest and largest currently operating LGBTQI organisation in Hungary to provide an overview to its members on the LGBTQIA+ matters in Hungary. Following a Zoom webinar held in November 2021, the purpose of this article is to summarise the aforementioned webinar and provide a short overview of the current situation of the LGBTQIA+ community in Hungary, and also to provide practical and useful information to ensure every visitor’s safety while staying in Hungary during the Annual Meeting.

In general, homosexuality is legal in Hungary since 1961. While same-sex couples can enter into a registered partnership since 2009, same-sex marriage is not possible, and same-sex registered partners do not have the same rights as married couples have. Adoption for unmarried people, including same-sex couples and single members of the LGBTQIA+ community is almost impossible due to an amendment adopted in 2020. There are laws to prohibit discrimination, hate crimes or hate speech based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but obviously the LGBTQIA+ community faces many challenges in everyday life. Furthermore, legal gender recognition has been banned since 2020, so trans and intersex people are forced to live with documents that do not match their gender identity and/or appearance.

During the summer of 2021, Hungary made the headlines with the anti-LGBTQIA+ act the Parliament passed in June 2021. The legislative amendment bans access of minors to all products, advertising and media content depicting or promoting homosexuality or transgender identities; bans the portrayal of LGBTQIA+ issues in public service advertisements; and bans all educational programs that “promote” homosexuality or trans identities. This law, in addition to inciting hatred and aggression towards the LGBTQIA+ community, also makes scientific dialogue and educational work on LGBTQIA+ people nearly impossible. The adoption of the act further contributed to the politically-initiated, increasingly hostile public discourse against LGBTQIA+ community in Hungary as well. The number of hate crime incidents against LGBTQIA+ people reported to Háttér Society have increased after the law came into force compared to the same period a year earlier. The amendment clearly violates the right to freedom of expression, human dignity and equal treatment. It endangers the mental health of LGBTQIA+ youth by depriving them of age-appropriate sexuality education and affirmative support. The law does not have clear definitions and there are no clear sanctions. Imposing a ban on so many activities creates inconsistencies in the legal and constitutional order. Even though it is not meant to be a general ban on LGBTQIA+ people and theoretically only applies to the accessibility of LGBTQIA+ content to people under the age of 18, it is really extensive and has a far-reaching impact. Nevertheless, adults can still discuss LGBTQIA+ topics without any restrictions; the only aspect to consider in these cases is to assess if there are people under the age of 18 in the audience.

Despite the homophobic and transphobic legislation and political discourse, the social acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ people is at a historic peak in Hungary. According to a representative poll commissioned by Amnesty International Hungary and Háttér Society and conducted by Medián polling agency, most Hungarians support young people hearing about sexual and gender minorities in school, and do not want the government to decide what sex education covers. The research found that 46% of the respondents personally know people in the LGBTQI community, and 73% reject the government’s false claim that gay and lesbian people abuse or harm children. Regarding legal gender recognition, a clear majority of the Hungarian society (74.5%) believe that transgender people should be able to change their gender and name in their official documents. Marriage equality is supported by 59%, while 69% of respondents say same-sex couples can also be good parents. It also turns out that 90% of Hungarians say that age-appropriate sex education should be provided in schools, and that it is not the government, but parents and teachers who should decide what is taught on this topic (86% agreed with this statement).

In spite of the negative campaign, the LGBTQIA+ community celebrated the 26th Budapest Pride in July 2021 with more than 30,000 people attending, partly in protest against the homophobic and transphobic legislation that came into force a few days earlier. The event was safe, only a small number of counter-demonstrators appeared, and there were no major violent incidents reported during the March, or the month-long Pride Festival. In September 2021, Hungary had the first Pride march outside of Budapest in the city of Pécs with more than 2,000 people attending without any incidents reported.

Know your rights

The Act on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities adopted in 2003 forbids discrimination based on many characteristics including sexual orientation and gender identity as well. This means that all public bodies, authorities, armed forces and law enforcement bodies, educational institutions, employers, etc. are obliged to comply with the principle of equal treatment. Service providers (hotels or restaurants) and those who sell goods at their premises open to customers (shops) have to comply as well. Foreign citizens who are visiting Hungary are also under the protection of the law. It means the hotel you are staying at cannot refuse any services or a shop or a restaurant you visit cannot refuse to serve you based on the characteristics listed in the act, including sexual orientation or gender identity.

If you face any kind of discrimination you should gather the possible evidence and report it to the NGO Háttér Society. As such cases of discrimination are not life threatening and thus do not require immediate intervention, the police should not be involved. Incidents should be reported to the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights. Even if you do not want to be part of any legal procedure afterwards, Háttér Society is happy to collect and record any kind of rights violations. In some cases, as a civil society organisation, we are also able to launch actio popularis proceedings, so the violation can be investigated easily without your involvement. If the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights finds that the organisation or person subject to the complaint violated the principle of equal treatment, the Commissioner can order the termination of the unlawful situation, prohibit the unlawful conduct for the future, and order that their final and binding decision is officially published with the name of the company discriminating. The Commissioner may also impose fines ranging from HUF 50,000 to HUF 6,000,000. The fines are paid to the central budget, not the victim.

In more serious cases, the Criminal Code prohibits hate crime based on sexual orientation or gender identity as violence against a member of a community. Hate crimes are criminal offences committed with a bias motive, such as if a person is attacked for being LGBTQIA+. Hate crimes include offences against persons or property, where the victim, premises, or target of the offence are selected because of their real or perceived connection, attachment, affiliation, support, or membership with a group based upon a characteristic common to its members, such as gender identity, sexual orientation, or other factor (race, sex, age, religion, etc.). The Criminal Code provides severe sanctions for hate crimes, perpetrators in serious cases might face imprisonment up to eight years.

A hate crime impacts not only the victim, but the whole community. This is why it is very important to report any such incident to the police or civil society organisations. The Háttér Society can provide help and guidance on how to start the necessary criminal procedure in such cases as well. If you feel threatened and need immediate help, dial 112 to reach the general emergency service phone number where they speak Hungarian, English and German.

About Háttér Society

The Háttér Society, founded in 1995, is the oldest and largest LGBTQI organisation in Hungary. It works for a society in which no-one is discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, where all members of the LGBTQI community are free to live according to their identity, and receive the help they need to resolve the problems they might face. To achieve these goals, the Háttér Society operates various support services including a legal aid service; monitors and documents human rights violations against LGBTQI people; offers training for professionals among them legal practitioners; and advocates for the adoption of laws and policies respecting the human rights of LGBTQI people. During the past two decades, we provided legal advice to thousands and legal representation to hundreds of LGBTQI people who have become victims of violence, harassment of discrimination. For further information visit our website:

To contact the Legal Aid Service of the Háttér Society, send an email to

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