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Hungarian court to decide whether cruel and chilling law erasing trans people is constitutional

Josh Milton November 25, 2020

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is pictured during a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin on February 10, 2020. (Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A court in Hungary has requested a constitutional review of a chilling law that ended legal gender recognition for trans people, effectively erasing trans, non-binary and intersex folk from existence.

Activists last week teed up what could be a devastating dent to prime minister Victor Orbán’s cruel crusade against the country’s most marginalised and vulnerable – an eastern Hungarian court ruled that the bill violates constitutional rights to human dignity and private life.

In a statement issued Tuesday (25 November), the country’s top LGBT+ rights group Háttér Society said that the Miskolc Regional Court ruled in favour of petitioners that called Section 33 “abusive”.

In what will be a fresh test for Orbán’s Hungary, one he has sought to rewire to consolidate his party’s power, the constitutional court now has 90 days to make a ruling on the law’s constitutionality.

Smuggled in a package of laws to curb the swelling coronavirus, a brutal attack on trans rights in Hungary

Amid the throes of the coronavirus pandemic in March, Orbán’s government swiftly submitted an omnibus bill packed with policies that many opponents saw as a lightning-fast power grab.

Tucked between calls to allow Orbán to rule indefinitely by decree, nominally in the name of combating coronavirus, was Section 33 – a law which has come to capture how authoritarian governments have exploited the coronavirus to jam in provisions to chip away at LGBT+ rights.

Hungary: Trans people will flee when Viktor Orbán's anti-trans law passes
People march at LGBT Pride in Budapest on July 6, 2019. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)

Indeed, the law, passed by Hungary’s parliament, the National Assembly, in May, stated that the “biological sex” of a citizen is permanently defined by their chromosomes at birth.

It prevented trans people in Hungary from correcting the gender marker listed on their official birth certificates and other identification documents by amending the Hungarian Registry Act.

The bill’s authors argued that “biological sex” is fixed while senior politicians defended the bill by claiming that in erasing trans people, the government will be “creating legal clarity”.

But as the Háttér Society stressed, many public registries in the country have long denied such amendments to trans Hungarians. Moreover, the backlog this caused was simply wiped clean.

Yet, the deluge of rejections gave activists a path to challenge them via judicial review, the statement said.

“The petitioners claim that the adopted legislation violated the right to human dignity and private life guaranteed by the Fundamental Law of Hungary (the country’s constitution),” they said.

“Furthermore, the Constitutional Court had already established that transgender people have an inalienable right to change their name and gender in their official documents.”

Petitioners also pointed towards decisions made by European Court of Human Rights that secured this right to trans people.

More: gender recognition, Hungary, trans rights, transphobia, viktor orban

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