In the midst of everything that happened last year, we had almost forgotten the escape of a Hungarian MEP, known for his involvement in far-right conservative politics, from a “gay orgy” in Brussels. E&M‘s author Fernando Burgés makes sure to remind us, and argues why this episode is so much more than just a funny story.

Twenty-twenty will go down in history as one big pile of horrible events; anguish, anxiety, loneliness and fear. Nothing really made us hopeful and cheerful during this year. Except for one episode: the clumsy escape of József Szájer, a far-right Member of the European Parliament, from a “gay orgy” in the middle of a pandemic lockdown. There was sex, blood, drugs, lies and a police chase of a naked man. What else do we need?

Yes, the story has been widely covered by the media, but I still can’t get enough. An event so rich in details and so incredibly dramatic cannot be forgotten so soon. The joy of watching the castle of neo-fascist hypocrisy crumble before our eyes is simply too good to be true. So please join me as I quickly recap the story of the year.

An event so rich in details and so incredibly dramatic cannot be forgotten so soon

Fidesz in the Closet

József Szájer wasn’t one of those MEPs that we never really hear about. He was a leading figure in the Hungarian party Fidesz – that he co-founded in March 1988 – and a close confidant of Prime Minister Orbán. In the European Parliament for more than 16 years, Szájer enjoyed prestigious roles, including that of vice-president of its largest political group, the European People’s Party. In 2010, he was appointed to chair the drafting committee of the new Constitution of Hungary. A major responsibility. At the time he posted:

“Steve Jobs will surely be happy when he gets word that Hungary’s new Constitution is being written on an iPad, actually my iPad […]. The best is I don’t have to wait for minutes to turn it on, like with a normal laptop. I can open it anywhere and can take advantage of every minute. It’s a miracle!”

So wrote an overenthusiastic man who was about to make several notable changes to the Constitution, including a proposal to allow parents to vote in elections on behalf of their underage children and an article banning abortion. Among others, one specific change was notorious. The definition of marriage as being between man and woman, amidst growing calls for the recognition of same-sex marriage in Hungary.

It didn’t come as a shock to Hungarian society. His party has been known for campaigning for “traditional family values” and had been at the forefront of anti-LGBTQ+ causes for years. In response to a journalist who asked how he could refer to it as “a 21st-century Constitution” while not guaranteeing LGBTQ+ rights, Szajer replied: “It depends on how we interpret the 21st century. I don’t think that the traditional concept of marriage has changed just because we came into another millennium.”

LGBTQ+ rights in Hungary under Orbán

Fidesz has a two-third majority in parliament and, as a result, has been able to pass several constitutional amendments since the Orbán government came into power for the second time in 2010. The most recent change was passed in November 2020 and makes adoption impossible for same-sex couples. Under the new rule, the Hungarian Constitution will only allow married couples and single people granted special permission by the government to adopt children. Earlier this year, the parliament speaker said adoption by homosexual couples was tantamount to “paedophilia in a moral sense”.

According to human rights organisations, the bill includes language that stigmatizes transgender people, stating that “children have the right to their identity in line with their sex at birth” and rejecting diversity and inclusivity by mandating that children’s upbringing should be “in accordance with the values based on our homeland’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”

This was only the last addition to a list of restrictions and a hate campaign against the LGBTQ+ community by Orbán’s party in recent years. Last year, senior Fidesz figures called for a boycott of Coca-Cola after the company used homosexual couples in a Hungarian advertising campaign. The posters, part of the marketing campaign “Love Revolution”, showed homosexual people and couples smiling with slogans such as “zero sugar, zero prejudice”. Also in 2019, the country announced it would withdraw its participation in the Eurovision song contest, with sources saying the government considered the music contest “too gay”. Endorsing Fidesz’s instance, Andras Bencik, TV commentator and editor of a pro-government magazine, said the Eurovision Song Contest is a “homosexual flotilla” and that watching it could pose mental health risks to Hungarians.

Last year, senior Fidesz figures called for a boycott of Coca-Cola after the company used homosexual couples in a Hungarian advertising campaign

Perhaps even more absurd, in June 2018, the Hungarian State Opera House cancelled 15 Billy Elliot performances after the pro-government newspaper Magyar Idők claimed that the musical, which shows the titular protagonist “searching for women’s clothing” and “neon rainbows,” could impact the subconscious minds of children at an age when it’s still possible to “influence [their] direction”. At the time, the government’s International Communications Office claimed that the performances were not cancelled because of the dispute in the press, but “as a result of the reduced interest caused by these press reports”.

The European Commission vs Orbán

The friction between the European Union and the Orbán government has escalated over the last two years around a number of issues. Recently, days after the government in Budapest submitted the bill to ban adoption by same-sex couples, the European Commission introduced a new LGBTIQ strategy, which addresses the inequalities and challenges affecting LGBTIQ people and sets out a number of targeted actions, including legal and funding measures, for a period of 5 years. The document highlights that “while progress in the EU was made towards LGBTIQ equality over the past years, discrimination against LGBTIQ people persists, with 43% feeling discriminated”.

In a context of growing concern of the EU about LGBTQ+ issues, Poland and Hungary’s explicitly homophobic policies stand in stark contrast with the Commission’s proposed strategy and the principles of tolerance and nondiscrimination it is designed to protect. What’s more, Orban has become a leading figure in the populist front and has embraced top right-wing heads of states in the so-called “fight against globalism”.

Szájer’s Little Secret

Let’s recap. Szájer was not a low-ranking politician. He was a well-respected man, married to Ms Tunde Hando, now a Constitutional Court judge. He enjoyed prestige in a party whose MPs had previously compared same-sex marriage with pedophilia and called for boycotts of companies that promote LGBTQ+ content. Szájer was the man whose hands – on an Ipad, of course – drafted articles of a new Constitution that severely discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community in his country. Szájer was a leading voice in the fight to keep traditional Christian family values and has endorsed the idea that “new, modern ideologies in the western world raise doubt about the creation of the male and female sex, and endanger the right of children to have healthy development”. Szájer was the man who added to the Constitution that “Hungary will protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman”. Yes, he did all that, but he had a little secret.

The importance of the fact that Szájer was found by the police sliding down a drainpipe out of a “gay orgy” in Brussels should not be underestimated. It’s much more than simply ironic and funny. It’s the ultimate symbol of hypocrisy and proof that those who work so hard to restrict the advancement of the rights of the LGBTQ+ community have a closet issue. As the proverb goes, “better to be known as a sinner than as a hypocrite”. In this case, from Szájer’s perspective as a genuine Christian who believes in the traditional values of family, he is both a sinner and a hypocrite.

The importance of the fact that Szájer was found by the police sliding down a drainpipe out of a “gay orgy” in Brussels should not be underestimated

The response of his party was as expected. “What our representative, József Szájer, did has no place in the values of our political family. We will not forget nor repudiate his 30 years of work, but his deed is unacceptable and indefensible,” said Orbán a few days after the thwarted orgy in Brussels. Back in Hungary, pro-government media criticized “liberals” for making “a huge political deal out of a sex scandal” and tried to use the good old trick of insinuating that the whole thing had been a conspiracy put forward by EU “enemies” of Hungary’s government.

With Szájer resigning from his role as an MEP, the tendency is that over time his name will slowly fade away from our memories. His legacy in Hungary, however, will continue to stand in opposition to the rights of the LGBT+ community for years to come. Even worse, his party and its obvious neo-fascist agenda remain among us. Only one thing has changed: now we do know their little secret.

Cover photo: European Parliament in Strasbourg. By Jonathan Marchal (Unsplash licence)

  • retro

    Fernando Burgés is originally from Brazil. Former editor of Europe&Me, he has lived and worked in Brussels for more than four years.

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