A top-ranking official in Hungary’s ultraconservative government has stepped down after being caught fleeing an alleged gay sex party.
József Szájer announced his resignation as a member of the European Parliament for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party on Sunday. The married official admitted to attending what he called a “private party” in Brussels on Friday night, despite the Belgian capital being under coronavirus lockdown.
At least 20 naked men — including several diplomats — were discovered at a gathering above a gay bar in central Brussels, according to Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure, which described it as an “orgy.”
Szájer, 59, was injured trying to jump from a first-floor window, according to the public prosecutor’s office, but was apprehended by authorities, who found narcotics in his backpack.
Unable to produce identification, Szájer was escorted by police to his residence, where he presented a diplomatic passport that confirmed his identity.
Szájer was arrested, but tried to claim European parliamentary immunity, police said, leading to the involvement of Belgium’s foreign ministry.
According to the Times of London, others arrested at the party included diplomats linked to the conservative European People’s Party, of which Szájer was vice-chair and chief whip.
In a statement Tuesday to the Hungarian press, Szájer apologized for violating social distancing regulations.
“I am sorry that I have broken the rules of assembly, this was irresponsible on my part,” he said. “I will take the sanctions that come with it.” He denied using any narcotics, claiming to have offered to take a drug test on the spot. “Police said an ecstasy pill was found. It’s not mine, I don’t know who placed it and how.”
Pledging continued support for Orbán, Szájer admitted ongoing strife between Hungary and the European Union had taken a toll on his mental health. "Those who are on the battlefield must be in a state of combat," he said.
Along with Poland, Hungary has rejected E.U. efforts to address immigration and LGBTQ rights. In November, the two nations united to veto the E.U.'s trillion-euro budget and coronavirus recovery package because it is tied to member countries' adherence to the rule of law and European values.
In a statement, Fidesz’s European Parliament delegation praised Szájer’s stepping down as “the only right decision.”
“We acknowledge his decision, just as we acknowledge that he has apologized to his family, his political community and to the voters.”
Szájer’s wife is Tunde Hando, a member of Hungary’s Constitutional Court and the former director of the National Judiciary Office.
A founding member of Fidesz, Szájer was the head of the party’s delegation to the European Parliament and served on its legal affairs committee. He also had a key role in drafting Hungary’s controversial 2012 Constitution, which defined marriage as “the union of a man and a woman.”
While some reports have claimed he personally added that amendment, Hungarian gay activist Tamás Dombos said Szájer's role in its addition is complicated.
“Back in 2011, he stated publicly that he personally does not agree with the inclusion of a heterosexual definition of marriage in the Fundamental Law, although he did not leave the drafting committee when such a provision was finally included,” Dombos told NBC News. That same year, Szájer was the only Fidesz politician who spoke out against the police for banning Budapest Pride, Dombos added. (The ban was eventually overturned.)
“The Fidesz European Parliament delegation under his leadership voted significantly more progressively than did his fellow party members back in Hungary,” Dombos said. “It is true, however, that he did not speak up against growing homophobia and transphobia in recent months and years.”
Szájer’s resignation comes as the Hungarian Parliament is considering a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex couples from adopting. Draft language submitted last month states that children must be raised “in accordance with the values based on our homeland’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”
“The basis for family relations is marriage,” it states. “The mother is a woman, the father is a man.”
Under the amendment, expected to be voted on next week, only opposite-sex married couples would be eligible to adopt children, with rare exceptions made by the ministry of family affairs.
The amendment also asserts that the government “protects children’s right to the gender identity they were born with.”
The LGBTQ community has been a popular target for Fidesz, which has been in power since 2010. In May of this year, for example, the government reversed regulations allowing transgender and intersex citizens to change the gender listed on legal documents.
For the most part, Dombos said, opposition parties have focused on Szájer’s hypocrisy — representing a traditional-values party while flouting lockdown and engaging in drugs and public sex — rather than on the gay aspect of the scandal.
In a Facebook post, Hungary’s centrist Momentum Movement party attacked him for thinking the rules didn’t apply to him. But it said the incident was just another example of Fidesz’s “total moral bankruptcy.”
Last year, a video leaked of Zsolt Borkai, a Fidesz politician and former Olympic gymnast, participating in a orgy on a yacht in the Adriatic. At the time, Borkai was married and mayor of Győr, a medium-sized city 70 miles outside Budapest.
Fidesz called the incident “a private matter,” according to Reuters, and Borkai won re-election shortly thereafter.
In July, former Hungarian ambassador Gábor Kaleta, a member of Fidesz, was given a one-year suspended sentence and $2,000 fine for possessing nearly 20,000 pornographic images of minors.
“This is not the first time that the hypocrisy of Fidesz is revealed,” the Momentum Movement said. “Cocaine [use] from the party that wants to solve the drug problem with draconian strictness. Yachting with prostitutes from the party that talks about the sanctity of the family and the supremacy of Christian life. Participation in an illegal orgy under restrictions from a representative of the party that has done nothing to prepare the country for the second wave of the virus. These examples show that Fidesz doesn't actually have Christian conservative values.”