Calling someone a homosexual is defamation in Hungary

In a landmark case, a Budapest court ruled that calling someone a homosexual in public can be seen as defamation of good character. The decision is astounding, even if the justice argued –somewhat strangely–that it has nothing to do with the court passing moral judgment on sexual attraction, as such. We have written before about the public polemics between Fidesz mayor and national communications director Máté Kocsis and liberal politician Klára Ungár, who decided to “out” him on Facebook, claiming that he and another high-profile Fidesz leader–József Szájer–were both gay. Ms. Ungár is quite open about her sexuality and she was angered by the fact that people she believed on the right were gay refused to speak out against government-propagated homophobia.

Mr. Kocsis launched an erratic and homophobic  tirade against Ms. Ungár, in an effort to prove that he was a straight-laced heterosexual family man. And he also sued Ms. Ungár.

The Budapest court justice, Péter Fintha-Nagy, determined that Ms. Ungár had, indeed, defamed Mr. Kocsis by claiming that he was gay and ordered the defendant to:

  • Delete the defamatory Facebook comment, in which she outed Mr. Kocsis
  • Pay 2 million forints in compensation to Mr. Kocsis (roughly $9,300 CDN)
  • Issue a public apology on Facebook to the plaintiff

Mr. Kocsis appeared in court with his wife and was followed by a massive throng of journalists. The unusually large crowd ended up delaying the start of the proceedings. According to Justice Péter Fintha-Nagy, calling someone gay on Facebook and, as in this case, in Hungary’s largest circulation national paper--Népszabadság–is tantamount to defamation of good character and is “an insult to one’s human dignity.”

Máté Kocsis

Máté Kocsis

Ms. Ungár’s defence, Márton Nehéz-Posony, argued that under no circumstances can a comment on the nature of someone else’s sexual orientation or identity be used to judge one’s character or to damage their reputation, as a mere statement of one’s (perceived) sexual orientation carries with it no moral or ethical judgment. Mr. Nehéz-Posony emphasized (I think correctly), that a decision to deem this as defamation by the courts suggests that Hungary’s legal system is judging homosexuality as being undesirable. Mr. Kocsis’s lawyer emphasized that he and his client do not wish to issue any comment or judgment on homosexuality, as such. Mr. Kocsis, of course, has made his own opinion on this perfectly clear.

Mr. Kocsis was quick to take his legal victory to Facebook, where he claimed that he, his wife and his family have been vindicated by a judge who has determined that Ms. Ungár “lied.” Of course, the court determined no such thing, because they cannot possibly decide whether Mr. Kocsis is or is not gay. The judge simply decided that claiming that a public figure is gay in Hungary is a form of defamation.

This ruling will, undoubtedly, have far-reaching consequences and speaks volumes about the nature of Hungarian public discourse. Ms. Ungár has confirmed that she would appeal the ruling and will go all the way to the European court in Strasbourg, if necessary.

20 Comments

  1. It is funny. This maffia is called everything in the book and this is the thing of defamation of character to them. Being sperm, liar, killer, corrupt, cheater, etc is nothing, but this must have hit the nerve:)

  2. Charlie London says:

    This is a backwards step in litigation.

    Because homosexuality no longer has shameful connotations it should not be classed as defamation.

    Imagine if I was gay and someone called me ‘heterosexual’ – would that be defamation?

    No, of course not.

    In the UK, with civil partnerships and acceptance of LGBT minorities, all orientations should be treated equally.

    This is another blow for minorities in Hungary – with the persecution of homosexuals institutionalised in society, the judiciary, the government, the press and Roman Catholic Church.

    Homophobia sanctioned and permeating all levels of society.

    Like the religious homophobes in Uganda and other banana republics.

    Including the Paprika Republic.

  3. András B. Göllner says:

    I guess Mr Kocsis and Szájer have not heard of Gay Pride. Klára Ungár, a proud Lesbian herself, would never call someone gay or lesbian to defame but in order to praise. To be labelled a homosexual is a term of endearment. I would never take offense if someone called me a homosexual or a Jew – I would wear the labels proudly, as a sign of my solidarity with those oft persecuted and discriminated against people. I guess Mr Szájer and Mr Kocsis are unable, for some odd reason, to accept praise, where praise is due. What are they ashamed of ? The judge who sentenced Ms Ungár to a fine, should be defrocked and sent out to pasture. He is the one who should be named and shamed, and not Klára Ungár.

    • Come on now, you’re going to the other extreme. It’s not “praise”, that’s some bleeding heart liberal spin of the word. It’s a neutral description of sexuality – someone saying that the word in and of itself is “defamatory” and someone saying that it’s “praise” are both wrong.

  4. György Lázár says:

    It is absolutely amazing that a trial like this is possible in 2015… Indeed, it is a landmark case.

  5. At first who has homophobia? Merriam-webster.

    Definition of HOMOPHOBIA
    : irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals

    (A) Who can tell where irrational fear or aversion begins for whom? Who has the right? Some people find it funny seeing gays kissing in the street, others get sick even hearing about it. There is no standard norm for what is irrational for different individuals of different family background, education, cultural or religious background. Homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of and is nothing to be proud of. Same stands for any other issues in the societies. There are many other serious issues it’s just the concerned social groups don’t take it to to street to the public for lack of foundation and power. So for me the world homophobia does not exist.

    (B) Defamation or not, is he a gay or not I see this from a different point of view. Making public remarks about other people sexual orientation or sexual life is in best case sexual harassment. Legislation in many countries can be different, I know many countries where such a remark tantamount to a sexual harassment regardless whether it is true or not. In another thread Charlie London called me a “onanist” simply because I have my own opinion that is more important for me than being accepted here by other posters, a remark that in my country tantamount to serious sexual harassment and he can be dragged to the court. Maybe not just here but in many other countries, too. Same stands for one’s family life or privacy. Invading into this area is a serous violation of democracy and free speech that will result in a public cry for regulation of democracy i.e. illiberalism.

    (C) Whatever remark it was, she made it publicly with the intention to cause inconvenience to someone else and such as she is responsible for that. We not gonna make public remarks about other people sexual life either gay or straight. Remarks about his sexual life or not, whatever else she could say, e.g. flat-footed. Same. If him being homosexual has anything to do with his public work or rule in public life, it should be managed and discussed in a proper civilized way and made public in a proper manner only in case it has any importance for the public. Not making remarks publicly. It is everybody own right to decide make a come out about his sexuality or in general about his private live.

    • Correctly: ………everybody’s own right to decide to make a coming-out about their sexual orientation or anything else in general……

      • While we are talking about sexist issues here from our Western society, we are losing contact with the Hungarian reality, where sexist remarks are common place even in the Parliament with impunity. I bet Ms. Ungar could tell a few insinuations about her experiences in the last 20 years, which are not even comparable to this Kocsis case, who is only a corrupt, stupid jerk, anti homeless subhuman… It does not make it good, but go back to my first comment..

        • Yes, exactly as you put it. There are so many more important things to speak about. But I would make a sharp difference between everyday sexist remarks made in the Hungarian Parliament or within the Hungarian political life, and specific sexist comments made in context with homosexuality. I’m not so sure about that Orban, the Fidesz, is being truly homophobic. I rather sense it as his/their power struggle where the LGBTQ, a powerful international organization with tremendous mass base, that is capable of mobilizing tens of thousand of their members in no time and call them out to the streets and is capable to make them do anything even to march down the street naked or half naked or guys dressed to ballerina with heavy makeup, manifests for him as a competitive social power organization that is capable of gaining popularity or social support, something that should be avoided, and that is why it hits nerves as you correctly said.

          That’s why when the Hungarian PM was being publicly called a cumshot – I never heard such a humiliating addressing of a PM before – has gone down the drainhole, while the mere suspicion that a homosexual i.e. the LGBTQ managed to infiltrate the Fidesz is calling for strike back.

          But this is a very complex issue. On the one hand the problem of privacy as I mentioned in my first post and on the other a Fidesz guideline on homosexuality and the LGBTQ.

  6. “Hungarian Free Press” by a dude who has no idea what’s going on in hungary. Have you ever been there? Do you speak the language?

    • You can get part of your answer from his bio above, as he is the editor of the Kanadai Magyar Hirlap, hungarian language publication. He has been to Hungary and has lived there as well I am pretty sure. The authors of this publication are all well informed about what goes on in Hungary. Probably more so than the people who live there and are only exposed to what the government news wants them to know about.

    • What is going on in Hungary? Care to tell us?

  7. I think “winston f” is right and this comment made me think about it and post one more comment as I see that issue.

    It’s not ONLY about being a gay, it’s about belonging to the LGBTQ. Who cares about a few lonely gays or lesbians until they start to arrange themselves in a powerful and influential organization. There comes the LGBTQ and as long as they keep them together and controls them they count a lot. But who are they and where did they come from?

    To create a powerful international multilingual organization like the LGBTQ needed founds, and lots of experience of an influential elite that controls the human societies. No troops of individual gays can do and grow the LGBTQ so strong, influential, so great and international spontaneously. They infiltrate all segments of our social and political life, they finance politicians’ election campaigns, they are in the legislation, education, mass media, editorials as in exchange for they financial aids they get a privilege to put their guys in the board of decision makers.

    They are powerful and getting bigger and stronger. First the gays, then the lesbians, then the transvestites and now the queers. Who is a queer? Anybody can be invited and rolled in under such a pretext. You have a tattoo, a piercing, different taste, i.e. YOUR OWN PERSONALITY, your parents or colleagues don’t like it? “Joins us, come here, we fight for your human rights so that anybody will be accepted as equal and no discrimination, your place is among the gays and lesbians and transvestites, be proud of it!!!!“.

    Oh my God what a drag. Brainwash. Washing things together. If you are proud of your success for victory in fight for human rights and nondiscrimination then automatically be proud of being a gay, too?? What a sick hogwash. There is also a movement by human rights activists for equal human rights for convicts in the prison houses and in the courtroom. Yes, THAT’S the matter of pride the fight itself, the goodwill, doing good for those fellow humans. They do it for all the humankind and for the stability of the societies, for all human fellows. They don’t do it for people to be proud of being a gay or a criminal.

    LGBTQ is a huge power organization that is exploring gays and goodwill human rights activist as well. Smart gays never join them. They know they are disposable and are being exploited. Didn’t Hitler exploit the gays and Rohm to climb up high and killed them all with the Operation Hummingbird? He used them and then continued to kill them even after the success of the Operation Hummingbird. Were there many gays among the planners and the executioners of the Operation. Yes, of course there were. LGBTQ wants power, gets power and when achieved they will dispose their brainwashed members whom they enrolled by all tricks. The invisible hard core of the LGBTQ is not even gays or lesbians, they cannot even be. But until them they use and manipulate them gays for their own purpose.

    Look what the mind-control technique of the LGBTQ is capable to achieve mobilizing huge human masses. They deprive those unfortunate believers from their basic human dignity, they shepherd them down the streets striped off their clothes, they shepherd them down naked like animals dressing and painting them them to clowns degrading their own humanity, mocking their sexual inclination, and suggest them to be proud of it.

    And they are. 🙁

  8. Dear Liz,
    You really don’t have to scoop down like this. Friendly advice: “Consider the source” – this is what I follow all the time, maybe it will work for U2:)

  9. correct:stoop down:)

  10. As a non Hungarian from Canada with Hungarian friends I know many Hungarians are nice people. Unfortunately the current Hungarian government (and those that voted for them) appear to be not so nice. Some Hungarians appear to be extreme nationalists and racists trying to maintain what they believe as a racially pure Hungarian state (nationalist myths). They ridicule homosexuals. leftists, Roma, the poor, and attack legitimate refugees fleeing war much like fascists once did.

    It’s unfortunate that after the horrors Hungarians and others endured at the hands of fascists that some Hungarians now behave like Nazis themselves themselves. There is hope though. As the Hungarian that wrote this article shows, their are Hungarians that still believe in human rights. The truth is there are extremists in every nation and their are good people in every nation. We as individuals get to choose what we wish to be. Evil or good.

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