By Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's gay community is facing increased government "attacks" and fears that its hard-won rights, and an improvement in public acceptance of them, may be at risk, a rights group said.
The European Union has long criticized Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right-wing government over its record on the rule of law and civil liberties, including its attitude toward minorities such as homosexuals.
The Hatter ("Background") group said various legislative moves, a lack of police vigilance and sometimes hostile rhetoric from the ruling Fidesz party threatened to undo the progress seen since the fall of communism three decades ago.
"By the end of 2019, our worst fears had become reality when Hungarian state actors led by the governing parties started increasingly concentrated attacks against the LGBTQI community," it said.
The acronym denotes lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, questioning (or queer) and intersex.
"We fear that this... might become the modus operandi of the government. Ultimately, this will shift Hungarian public opinion that has otherwise shown signs of growing support for LGBTQI causes in recent years."
Hatter cited several recent homophobic attacks which it said the police had failed to investigate with proper vigor.
Asked about the complaints, a government spokesman said the constitution and other laws guaranteed the same freedoms for all Hungarian citizens.
Hungary does not allow gay marriage but gay couples can acquire a legal status short of marriage. Individual gay people can adopt children but gay couples can't.
Orban has spoken of closing "loopholes" in adoption law where it applies to gays but has not proposed new legislation. He has also not called into question the legitimacy of gay pride marches, unlike the leader of Poland's ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
However, Orban has defended the traditional family model. In 2018, his government promoted the legal recognition of the traditional heterosexual family model, even though the constitution already defines marriage and family as one man, one woman and their children.
Last year parliament speaker Laszlo Kover, a prominent Fidesz member, outraged rights groups by equating gay adoption with child sex abuse.
"In a moral sense there is no difference between pedophiles and those who demand (gay adoption)," Kover told a public forum, according to the news portal index.hu. "Both objectify the child as a consumer good, and consider it a means of self-fulfillment."
Orban's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, endorsed Kover's remarks at the time.
"Such adoptions put the child's interests below those of the adopters who cannot have children on their own. That is factually correct."
(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Gareth Jones)