Hungarian and international companies including Google and ViacomCBS on Monday condemned proposals by Hungary’s ruling party to ban the dissemination of LGBT+ content in schools and adverts, saying it would fuel discrimination and harm business.
Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which faces elections in early 2022, has moved further against the LGBT+ community since last year and activists said the new proposal resembled Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law.
His party’s draft legislation seeks to ban showing content to under-18s that is seen to “promote or show gender change and homosexuality”, which companies said would mean shows featuring LGBT+ people being banned from daytime TV.
“The bill would increase the discrimination and potential harassment against LGBT+ people of all ages,” said a joint statement by We Are Open, a coalition of companies co-founded by Google, and Open For Business, a global LGBT+ advocacy group.
“This is deeply troubling. In addition to having a detrimental impact on employees, enacting this bill would run counter to the interests of business in Hungary.”
Several companies and business leaders, including the country director of Google and U.S. media company ViacomCBS – which both have operations in Hungary – posted the statement on their official social media pages.
The Hungarian government said by email that the measures were aimed at “protecting the healthy physical and mental development of children” and that only officially approved groups would be able to conduct sex education lessons.
“There are contents which children under a certain age can misunderstand and which may have a detrimental effect on their development,” the International Communications Office said in a statement.
In 2020, Orban’s government banned transgender people from changing their legal gender and effectively barred same-sex couples from adopting, joining Poland in targeting LGBT+ rights.
It also labelled a children’s book that featured LGBT+ characters “homosexual propaganda” that should be banned from schools.
Peter Arvai, co-founder and executive chairman of Hungarian presentation software company Prezi, said talented staff had left the country due to the ban on trans people changing their legal gender.
“When we recruit people from abroad, there isn’t an interview where the political situation in Hungary doesn’t come up,” Arvai said. “That wasn’t the case back in 2008 when we got started.”
He said that Prezi, which has 280 staff, 170 of whom are based in the capital, Budapest, had been expanding its Berlin, Riga, San Francisco and Dublin offices instead.
“There is a real cost to creating a fearful and divisive environment,” he added.
A group of European Union lawmakers also condemned the proposed Hungarian law.
“Russia-style ‘anti-LGBTI propaganda’ laws have no place in our Union,” Marc Angel, co-chair of the European Parliament’s 154-member LGBTI Intergroup, said in an emailed statement.