The EU has announced legal cases against Poland's LGBT free zones and Hungary's LGBT material in schools ban
BRUSSELS, July 15 (Reuters) - The European Union's executive stepped up its battle with Hungary and Poland over the rights of LGBTIQ people on Thursday, launching legal cases that could land the two eastern European member states in the bloc's highest court.
"Equality and the respect for dignity and human rights are core values of the EU ... The Commission will use all the instruments at its disposal to defend these values," the European Commission said in a statement.
The action against Hungary related to a new law that bans schools from using materials deemed as promoting homosexuality - legislation which has set Prime Minister Viktor Orban on a collision course with rights groups.
Critics say the law wrongly conflates paedophilia and pornography with LGBT issues and infringes on human rights. Commission head Ursula von der Leyen has called it a "disgrace".
There was no immediate reaction from Hungary. Orban has in the past said the LGBT issue is a matter of national sovereignty.
The premier, who is facing a tough election next year, has grown increasingly radical on social policy to protect what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.
The Commission also took aim at Hungary's consumer protection body for obliging the publisher of a children's book presenting LGBTIQ people to include a disclaimer that it depicts forms of "behaviour deviating from traditional gender roles".
The action against Poland related to the decision by some regions and municipalities to declare themselves "LGBT-ideology free zones", and the authorities' failure to respond to enquiries on this matter, the Commission said.
Poland's government in June denied having any laws that discriminated against people based on their sexual orientation.
The governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has repeatedly clashed with the EU over democratic values as it brought courts and media under more state control and rejected immigration from the Middle East and Africa.
Hungary and Poland have two months to respond, failing which the Commission may refer them to the EU's Court of Justice. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and John Chalmers; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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