CNN  — 

Hungary “has no place” in the European Union after passing a controversial new bill banning LGBTQ content in schools, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Thursday.

Earlier this month Hungary’s parliament passed legislation which bans all educational materials and programs for children which are considered to promote homosexuality, gender reassignment and the concept of sexuality deviating from the one assigned to a person at birth.

The move prompted intense criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties. On the day it passed, crowds gathered in Budapest outside the parliament to protest the bill.

The legislation is one of a string of divisive policies championed by Hungarian leader Victor Orban, a hardline nationalist who has previously railed against LGBTQ people and immigrants.

“For me, Hungary has no place in the EU anymore,” Rutte told journalists before attending an EU summit in Brussels alongside Orban.

He added: “But, unfortunately, in the system that we have, I can’t do it on my own, but [with] 26 other member states saying: ‘you have to leave. This has to happen step by step and, in the meantime, you hope that they will adapt.”

As he arrived for the summit, Orban strongly defended the new legislation.

“It’s not about homosexuals, it’s about the kids and the parents,” he said.

“I am a fighter for the rights. I am a freedom fighter in the communist regime,” Orban continued.

“Homosexuality was punished and I fought for their freedom and their rights. So I am defending the rights of the homosexual guys, but this law is not about that. It’s about the right of the kids and the parents.”

On Tuesday, 14 out of 27 EU countries expressed their “deep concern” at the law in a joint declaration initiated by Belgium.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also denounced the bill

Speaking during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday, Von der Leyen said the bill “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

“It goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union, and this is human dignity, it is equality, and is the human fundamental rights,” she said.

Can the EU expel Hungary?

  • Even in the event that Rutte’s fellow EU leaders agreed, Hungary’s place within the bloc is not in peril. There is no legal mechanism in the EU’s treaties to expel a member state. The much-discussed Article 7 of the treaties removes a member states voting rights within the EU Council, the forum through which ministers and leaders of member states decide the political future of the EU.
  • However, invoking Article 7 and suspending the voting rights of a member state requires a unanimous decision in the council, meaning that all 26 leaders (Hungary, the subject of the vote, would not have a say) would need to vote in favor. The chances of this happening is very unlikely. The political leadership in many member states – most notably Poland, which is currently the subject of Article 7 proceedings for its assault on the nation’s courts – simply doesn’t want to set a precedent for Article 7 actually being used.
  • Analysis by CNN’s Luke McGee

    Von der Leyen said she had instructed EU Commissioners to write to the Hungarian authorities expressing the EU’s concern over the bill before it comes into force.

    Hungary has passed similar legislation before.

    In December 2020 the country’s parliament voted to redefine the concept of “family” in the country’s constitution, a move which effectively bars same sex couples from adopting children. That too was met with outcry from human rights groups.

    Asked on Thursday whether he would withdraw the latest bill, Orban responded: “The law is already announced, it’s published, and it’s done.”

    Orban also claimed that European politicians who oppose the law didn’t read it.

    “Always better to read first, then criticize later,” he said.