Human Rights in the XXI Century 05: Starting a family, as a human right? – Not in Hungary

Blog Post by: Zsolt Nagy, A Hungarian political scientist, Project Manager at Republikon Institute. He studied political science at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. He is interested in political thinking, democratization, Hybrid regimes, and political education.

Since humankind has been living in society, the institute of family has been playing a prominent role in our lives. It is an economical, emotional, psychological, biological, social, and legal subunit society, which accompanies the history of mankind[1], yet has changed a great deal over the millennia. We might think that by the end of 2020, starting a family has become a fundamental human right: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[2], the European convention on Human Rights[3] and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[4] also state that any two independent adults can start a family, regardless of their religion, skin color, or gender. Well, in Hungary, love is not enough… In the middle of the COVID-pandemic, the Hungarian government submitted a new constitutional amendment and a new bill that will make it impossible for homosexual people to start a family by making adoption impossible. Besides, Fidesz also complicates the adoption procedure of single heterosexuals with the same act.

The hard life of the LGBTQ-people in Hungary

This is not the first time when the LGBTQ community was attacked by the populist Orbán-regime. The Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary stated that homosexuality and paedophilia are the same[5], the Hungarian public television broadcasts a show in which they talk about re-educating gays[6], and even PM Orbán used the “slander of homosexuality” to undermine his political opponent in 2018, before the election[7].

This tendency continued in 2020: the Hungarian right-wing launched a new campaign against the LGBTQ community: in April, Fidesz-KDNP (the government) outlaws changing birth gender on legal documents (e.g., ID card or birth certificate)[8], which disregarded the transsexuals. Interestingly, although PM Viktor Orbán made this decision during the first wave of the pandemic, at the time of special legal order, nevertheless, Hungarians do not think that the government misused its power during the COVID-19 pandemic[9], according to Republikon’s research.

“To protect our norms.”

This is how we arrive to November, when the Hungarian government submitted a new law and a constitutional amendment that would regulate the definition of family and the adoption procedure. Both bills aim to show that “the right-wing government does not give in to the LGBTQ lobby’ pressure and protect the traditional values”[10].

The amendment of the constitution is only an ideological modification: it declares that the father is a man, and the mother is a woman (which seems pointless, especially since so far only a woman and a man have been able to marry and legally start a family in Hungary[11]). With this modification, the MP Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz-KDNP have stated that there are only biological genders and fostered public sentiment against the LGBT community: the new amendment gives the impression that they want to dismantle traditional society. It has also pointed to the unequal treatment of the LGBTQ community, which they have to deal with every day. It is a symbolical gesture that LGBTQ people will never be the same as heterosexuals in the state’s eyes.

At first sight, it is a harsh and unjust amendment, which has “only” symbolic consequences, but its legal aspects are not so important if we want to examine the state of LGBTQ rights in Hungary. However, we have to take a deeper look at the situation. Since the Hungarian constitutional Court is a quite strong institute in the Hungarian public law system, it can review every legal judgment or law. Because of this, the Court will be able to nullify every new law or judgment which will be found as “a threat to the traditional values and norms” as Family Minister, Katalin Novák has just said[12].

And the story does not end here: with a new law[13], the government would regulate under its direct authority who will be able to adopt a child. More precisely, the bill would only allow adaptation by spouses and it gives the Family Minister  the right to assess all of the applications [14]. This regulation would be stringent and would terribly centralize the adaptation procedure. After that, the Family Minister (right now, she is Katalin Novák) will be able to review and override every adaptation application. The bill is not unique in the world, however its explanation raises concerns.

The new law’s main consequence is that LGBTQ couples will lose their right to have their own family. Right now, they can be a family, as a social, an economic, a biological, and as a psychological entity. Moreover, they could be a legal entity party (by law, they cannot be married, just partners[15]). However, with the new regulation, they cannot be a family as a biological entity: so far, homosexual couples have not been able to adopt a child as a couple. Nonetheless, one of them could start the adaptation procedure as a single person. The government wants to close this loophole. Moreover, with this law, they get even further away from becoming a full-fledged family.

“The crying third man” – singles

The most interesting part of this bill is that it does not just harm the LGBTQ people but also singles. From now, they cannot adopt a child under normal circumstances. If a single man or woman wants to start the adaptation procedure, they have to ask permission from the Ministry of Family. Probably they will get the permission; though, the procedure will become more cumbersome and difficult for someone who does not have partner.

In Hungary, approximately 150-200 singles want to adopt a child every year[16]. It does not seem a big number. Though, we should consider that this number means 150-200 orphans who could start a new life in a new family…sooner or later. Since now singles have not had to wait for more for the adaptation, but with the new regulation, their adaptation process will be extended by several months at least (right now, the average time of the average duration of the adaptation procedure is 1-1,5 years[17]).

It is obvious that the new regulation targets homosexuals. However, single heterosexuals will also come to grief with the law, and even if the adaptation does not become impossible, it will definitely prolong the procedure.

Does it have social support?

Now we can see that the Hungarian government does not want to give LGBTQ people the right to start a family. Yet, what does the Hungarian society think about that question?

Fortunately, the Hungarians do not share their government’s thoughts on this topic. According to the latest surveys[18], the majority of the Hungarians (38 %) would be more permissive than the current legislation. 38 percent[19] of the respondents think that “A child has a better place with a same-sex couple than in a child protection system”, and 42 percent[20] believes that “Members of a same-sex couple can also be good parents”.

Another piece of data may give us even more hope: 57 percent of the respondents thinks that “a same-sex couple living in a registered partnership with a child” is a family. Maybe the government does not think that same-sex couples’ matter, but most of the society does.

But…what about the European Union?

Citizens of the European Union have the same opinion as Hungarians: 55 percent of the population support the joint adaption and 74 percent the second-parent (or step-children) adaption as well[21]. We can see that the European society is ready to give more rights to the LGBTQ community, but the governments are not so sure about this: 14 countries support the joint adaptation of same-sex couples and 3 more are willing to make a new law about it[22].

We can also establish that all of the countries that do not want to extend the LGBTQ-rights are from the ex-Eastern Bloc countries. In these nations the acceptance of the LGBTQ community is lower[23], however the situation is not that devastating: even in Slovakia, where homosexuals are least supported, 39 percent of the society supports their equality, which is a low number, but not terrible. The society is ready for the conversation, but the governments are not strong enough for a battle involving such potential political losses.

At this point, we can ask ourselves: what the European Union could do to help the LGBTQ community. The European Union does not have any kind of tool to make the Hungarian government to change its perspective in this question[24]. Nevertheless, it supports the ideas and programs which could help to the LGBTQ community to become equal to heterosexuals. For this, Renew Europe has proposed 10 commitments what the EU could do for the equality of the LGBTQ community[25]. The Renew4Equality asks the European Commission to “ensure the equal rights for Rainbow Families across the EU”.

In conclusion, it is clear that there is a significant worldview difference between the Eastern and Western countries regarding adoption by same-sex couples. The tendencies show that more and more people are supporting the LGBTQ community[26], so the conservatists cannot just sweep the problem under the rug. We need to start a discussion between the parties and need to understand the opposite site as well. In the end, the Union has to give common solutions to this common problem, because we have to consider those children who will lose their future families, because of the populist legislations like Hungary.


[1]The definition of the family:













[14] Except for the adoption of relatives.



[17] This numbers based on a NOT representative survey:


[19] 31 percent were against the statement, and 30 percent did not respond or gave a neutral answer

[20] 34 percent were against the statement, and 27 percent did not respond or gave a neutral answer







Published by the European Liberal Forum. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the European Liberal Forum.