Hungary Bans LGBTQ Content From Schools, But Some Teachers Say They Will Defy It Hungary is banning LGBTQ content from classrooms and media that reaches minors. Not if these educators can help it.

Hungary Bans LGBTQ Content From Schools, But Some Teachers Say They Will Defy It

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Hungary, a new law came into effect this week banning the portrayal or so-called promotion of homosexuality to those under 18. While the EU Commission is threatening legal action, Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, says it should be up to parents, not schools or the media, to oversee their children's sex education. Esme Nicholson has the story.

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DNCE: (Singing) Why those feet cold? We just getting started.

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: These are the sounds of Budapest's last pride parade more than two years ago. Since then, the government has outlawed gender transition and gay adoption. Now Prime Minister Viktor Orban's administration is also banning the very discussion of LGBTQ from the classroom and media which reach those under 18. It's a move that many believe will do damage to those it claims to protect.

VIKTORIA RADVANYI: We think it's really, really important to mobilize as many people as possible because right now our, like, concrete safety and the wellbeing of LGBTQ youths is in danger.

NICHOLSON: Viktoria Radvanyi is on the board of Budapest Pride. She says the new legislation is part of a wider law that aims to protect against child abuse and says the government is intentionally conflating homosexuality with pedophilia to further stigmatize the LGBTQ community. As a result, she says, organizing this year's month-long Pride Festival has been an uphill struggle.

RADVANYI: A lot of venues are afraid to host LGBTQ events because they fear that they're going to be tagged in propaganda media.

NICHOLSON: But difficulties getting Pride off the ground have not stopped Hungarians from marching for rights, granted elsewhere in the European Union.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

NICHOLSON: At a recent rally, thousands of people gathered outside Parliament, shouting, we are brave. And a small but growing number of teachers are daring to defy the new law. One of them is 60-year-old Mariann Schiller, who has taught literature to high school students since communist times.

MARIANN SCHILLER: You're going to say that you will just not talk about it. And especially if you think of teenagers, they are obviously deeply interested in sexuality and bodies and emotions. What else should they be interested in?

NICHOLSON: Schiller jokes that she'd have to stop teaching half the classics to follow the law. More seriously, she says some of her colleagues feel they can't trust their students.

SCHILLER: In almost each class, there are some kids who would report what they heard to their father who would go to the government, reporting the teacher.

NICHOLSON: The Orban administration argues that teachers have no role to play in sex education, as recently made clear by the Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

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PETER SZIJJARTO: As long as the kids are under the age of 18, the education of theirs regarding sexual orientation is the exclusive rights of the parents.

NICHOLSON: Orban's spokesperson who would only answer questions in writing told NPR that this law bans both homosexual and heterosexual, quote, "propaganda targeted at children." Sari Szanto, an art teacher in Budapest, disputes this.

SHARI SANTO: I will do what I believe is best. So, no, I will not obey this law.

NICHOLSON: Szanto says she's seen homophobic legislation before. She spent the last decade teaching in Russia, which passed a similar law in 2013. She's dismayed this is happening in her own country.

SANTO: The fact that homosexuality or trans issues are taboo makes these kids much more vulnerable. And violence against them will be very hard to address for what it is.

NICHOLSON: Santo says she welcomes the EU Commission's recent threat to withhold coronavirus recovery funds from Hungary over this law, but says she's not convinced the EU won't let them down - something she says she won't do to her students. For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Berlin.

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