By Krisztina Than and Krisztina Fenyo
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - After three years, Marton Pal and his partner Adam Hanol received the phone call they had been waiting for in 2018 and a few months later they adopted Andris, a smart and lively boy who has since turned four.
As a Hungarian same-sex couple, the only way to adopt was if Pal applied as a single person. During interviews they told the adoption agency that they were in fact a couple. After 6 months, he got the permission.
In the same year they decided Andris should have a brother or sister, and this time Hanol applied. They have been waiting since November 2018 for the phone to ring again.
Now they fear that call will never come, since Hungary's nationalist government is putting forward legislation that would practically ban adoption by same-sex couples in what rights groups have said is an attack on the LGBTQ community.
The legislation says single people can only adopt with special permission from the minister in charge of family affairs. Even though Hanol has a valid permit, they think their chances have now diminished.
"Andris has been a miracle, that we could have him in our lives, so we are very grateful for that ... but I think our chances have deteriorated now," Pal said, playing with Andris in a leafy playground on the Buda side of the Danube.
"Anybody dealing with arranging adoption is at least in waiting mode now, or rather afraid to offer children to couples like us or single people," Hanol added. They won't give up though.
The government, which has stepped up anti-LGBTQ rhetoric as the coronavirus crisis hit the economy, has also proposed a constitutional amendment that declares "the basis for family relations is marriage ... The mother is a woman, the father is a man."
In May, Hungary banned gender changes in personal documents and has taken issue with children's books that portray diversity positively.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban's cabinet chief Gergely Gulyas told a briefing that "the physical and mental development of a child is ensured if he has a father and a mother", adding that there could be exceptions and that's why the bill allows single people to adopt as well.
Lydia Gall, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the legislation encouraged intolerance.
"This latest attack on the LGBT community in Hungary really shows the importance and emergency of why EU funds should be linked to the respect for rule of law and our common European values," Gall said, referring to a debate in the EU after Hungary and its ally Poland vetoed the bloc's budget.
Hungary and Poland, where the ruling party made campaigning against gay rights a key part of its ideology, refuse to back the EU's financial plan because the money is conditional on respecting the rule of law.
For same-sex couples in Hungary, the government's domestic campaign and increasing homophobia are a life-changer.
Balint Meiszterics, who planned to apply for adoption with his partner next year, said he was angry and sad at the same time, as the new bill could stop them having a family.
"The message here is ... that the government has an idea how a family should look like, how a true Hungarian looks like, and those who do not fit this have no place here," he said.
(Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Giles Elgood)