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Hungary ends legal recognition of transgender people

2020.05.19. 16:11

The supermajority of the governing Fidesz-KDNP coalition in the Hungarian Parliament has passed an omnibus bill on Tuesday that ends the legal recognition of transgender people in the country.

Article 33 of the new legislation introduces the term "Sex at birth" defined as "the biological sex determined by primary sex characteristics and chromosomes" into the Civil Registry Act, replacing "gender" in the civil registry. The law passed by Parliament expressly forbids changing this entry,

MAKING IT IMPOSSIBLE TO LEGALLY CHANGE ONE'S GENDER IN HUNGARY.

Since data in official documents such as ID cards, driving licenses, and passports are taken from the civil registry, the change would affect these as well,

NEWLY PRINTED OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS WOULD DISPLAY SEX AT BIRTH,

an expert of administrative law speaking to Index clarified. It is unclear how this would affect changes in gender already entered into the civil registry. Another consequence of the new law is that since the registry can only contain names corresponding to one's registered sex,

transgender people will not be able to register THEIR CHOSEN NAMES either.

The explanatory memorandum of the bill states that current legislation does not define "gender," since one's sex is determined biologically, adding:

"The sex contained in the civil registry is based on facts determined by doctors, declared by the registry. The registry certifies the facts and rights it includes until proven otherwise, therefore it does not create rights. However, the sex declared by the registry could create rights or obligations, and therefore it is necessary to define the term of 'sex at birth.' Given that completely changing one's biological sex is impossible, it is necessary to lay it down in law that it cannot be changed in the civil registry either."

Earlier, 63 members of the European Parliament protested the bill in an open letter, urging Hungarian government officials to revoke this article from the omnibus bill and ensure that Hungary provides "quick, transparent, and accessible frameworks for legal gender recognition," pointing out that even the Hungarian Constitutional Court ruled in 2018 that recognition of transgender people and their potential name change relates to the fundamental right to dignity. As they write:

"The amendment [...] exposes transgender and intersex persons to increased discrimination, harassment and violence, particularly because the production or presentation of public documents might oblige them to disclose their gender identity recurrently."

In his response to the MEPs' concerns, Minister of the Prime Minister's Office Gergely Gulyás wrote that the new law "does not affect men's and women's right to freely experience and exercise their identities as they wish," and that the European values of freedom, diversity, and tolerance can only be enforced if "EU member states can freely decide about their constitutional identities," ending his letter on the following, practically formulaic note:

"Let me express my special appreciation of the fact that this legal amendment has merited such lively interest in the EP amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which arguably hits Europe the hardest." 

It's worth noting that the draft of the law itself was submitted to Parliament by Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén on 31 March, just days after the government enacted a nationwide stay-at-home order over the coronavirus pandemic.

Hungarian LGBTQI organisations have turned to President János Áder, asking him not to sign the law into effect but refer it to the Constitutional Court for review.

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