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Fidesz’ continuous assault on the Hungarian LGBT+ Community and the recent Szájer affair

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has been long known for its tough stance on LGBTQI issues, its discrimination against same-sex couples and its ridiculous position on “traditional family values”.

Just recently, the eastern European country once again made it into international news due to its decision to pass a law that curtails the right for same-sex couples to adopt a child. According to Hungarian law, a family shall include a man as the father and a woman as the mother. Hence, it automatically excludes same-sex couples who want to build a family but also discriminates against single parents who wish to adopt.

The new law adds to other, previously adopted laws that curtail the rights and self-determination of the Hungarian people, specifically members of the LGBTQI community. Already in May 2020, the Fidesz government outlawed the possibility to change one’s gender after birth. Hence, an individual’s gender is from now on tied to the person’s sex and chromosomes at birth. Documents cannot be changed if the person later identifies as transgender.

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While it, unfortunately, does not come as a surprise that the strictly conservative Fidesz party discriminates against members of the LGBTQI community, given that the party has been known for continuously curtailing their rights as well as other fundamental civil liberties, the timing of this new law could not be more ironic.

Roughly three weeks ago, news broke about a party that took place amid COVID-19 restrictions and a lockdown in Brussels, which the police had to break up. Only two days later, a Hungarian Fidesz politician and member of the European Parliament (MEP), József Szájer, resigned from his post as MEP for the EPP party. In a statement, he named the psychological burden of his years in politics as a reason for his resignation – at least that was the first version of the story. Szájer only later acknowledged to have been at the house party himself, but he never lost a word about what kind of party it was.

A few days later, it was revealed that the party he took part in was actually a “sex party” (it has also been called an orgy), attended by 25 men and took place in the centre of Brussel’s gay bar district. Also, drugs were found in Szájer’s backpack when the police intercepted him as he was trying to flee in his underwear.

Now, in my personal opinion, the fact that he was at a male sex party should not be considered a scandal in itself, as I believe that everyone should be allowed to live their lives as they think it is best for them, as long as they do not harm anyone. However, the reality that this party took place during a time when COVID-19 restrictions were in place, and the city was essentially in lockdown, as well as the fact that Szájer carried drugs with him, are aspects that should be sanctioned.
Yet, there is another part to this story that bugs me and which, to me, is more of a scandal.

Szájer is one of the founding fathers of the ruling Fidesz party in Hungary, which has been known for its nationalistic and highly conservative stance. In recent years, the party cut back on civil liberties and the rights of the LGBTQI community. Szájer himself was one of the authors of the new constitution of 2011, which defined marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Over the years, Szájer supported and stuck to the Fidesz party line on LGBT issues which is, now that we know about his personal sexual orientation, not only surprising but simply sad.

Shortly after the real story about that party in Brussels came to light, Hungarian prime minister Orbán announced that what Szájer did does not fit into the values of the Fidesz’ party. Even though they would not forget what he did for the party during his 30 years of service, his deed was unacceptable and indefensible.

According to some sources, Szájer’s sexual orientation had been the subject of conversation before but was largely swept under the rug.

This story shows the hypocrisy of Fidesz party members, above all of Szájer. While I am, on the one hand, saddened and angry about the hypocritical behaviour of Szájer himself, I, on the other hand, cannot but have some sympathy for this man.

As a young man, Szájer helped build the Fidesz party, which was initially supposed to be a student movement that opposed communist rule. He was previously seen as a liberal who studied, like Orbán, in Oxford on a scholarship from – how ironic – George Soros. And even though, according to a former party member who quit Fidesz earlier, Szájer was unfamiliar with this radicalism and populism that Fidesz now represents, he tagged along with the party and stuck by it. Szájer spent 30 years of his life living a lie, likely struggling with his homosexuality. He got married and had a child, in order to convey the picture of a “traditional family”, as Fidesz defines it.

I can only imagine how this person must have felt when his party waged a war against the LGBTQI community, and he felt (maybe obliged?) to support this.

As so eloquently put by Eva S. Balogh: “When Szájer talked about the “psychological burden” of thirty years of political life that he could no longer bear, perhaps, not so deep down, he was also talking about the psychological torment he suffered through the same thirty years.”

What is worrying now is that Fidesz would have had the chance to change course on its anti-LGBT stance and support one of its founding members, who apparently also belongs to the community that Fidesz is fighting so hard. Instead, what they did was business as usual: continue their assault on the rights of LGBTQI people and try to cover up the party’s hypocrisy.

If there is one thing for sure, it is that Fidesz never learns, never changes.

Sources

Balogh, E. (2020): József Szájer resigned after sex scandal in Brussels, Hungarian Spectrum, https://hungarianspectrum.org/2020/12/01/jozsef-szajer-resigned-after-a-sex-scandal-in-brussels/, accessed 17.12.2020

Bayer, L. (2020): From Orbán ally to orgy scandal: Downfall of a Fidesz founder, Politico, https://www.politico.eu/article/from-orban-ally-to-orgy-scandal-downfall-of-a-fidesz-founder/, accessed 17.12.2020

BBC (2020): Jozsef Szajer: Hungary MEP quits after allegedly fleeing gay orgy, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55145989, accessed 17.12.2020

Der Standard (2020): Ungarn schränkt Rechte von LGBTQI-Personen massiv ein, https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000122519119/ungarn-schraenkt-rechte-von-lgbtqi-personen-massiv-ein, accessed 17.12.2020

Der Standard (2020): Ungarn verbietet Änderung des biologischen Geschlechts im Personenregister https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000117601219/ungarn-verbietet-aenderung-des-biologischen-geschlechts-im-personenregister, accessed 17.12.2020

Novak, B. (2020): Hungary Outlaws Changing Gender on Documents After Birth, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/28/world/europe/hungary-transgender-law.html, accessed 17.12.2020

Novak, B. (2020): Hungary Passes Laws Curtailing Gay Rights and Expanding Executive Power, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/15/world/hungary-laws-orban-gay-rights.html?searchResultPosition=1, accessed 17.12.2020

Pronczuk, M. & Novak, B. (2020): Hungarian Politician Resigns After Brussels Party Is Raided by Police, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/01/world/europe/jozsef-szajer-european-parliament-resignation.html?searchResultPosition=1, accessed 17.12.2020

Zsiros, S. (2020): MEPs accuse Budapest of hypocrisy over Brussels sex party scandal, Euronews, https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/02/meps-accuse-budapest-of-hypocrisy-over-brussels-sex-party-scandal, accessed 17.12.2020

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