Highest ever fine imposed on swimming-pool discriminating against LGBTQ sports club in Hungary

The Equal Treatment Authority found that a local-government run swimming pool discriminated against an LGBTQ sports club when it declined to rent out two of its swimming lanes for a sport event. The Authority imposed a fine of 1 million HUF.

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Atlasz Sports Club offers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people an opportunity to practice sports in an LGBTQ-friendly environment in Hungary since 2004. One of their flagship events is the annual Atlasz Sports Day. In January 2017 they contacted MOM Sports Pool, a swimming pool operated by a subsidiary of the Budapest District XII Local Government to rent two lanes for their event. The sports centre confirmed the availability of the pool via email, but when they learnt the name of the club, they declined the offer.

With the help of the legal aid of Háttér Society, the sports club turned to the Equal Treatment Authority to investigate the case. During the investigation, the sports centre argued that the rejection was not based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of the members of the club, but rather overcrowding in the pool and the fact that Atlasz wanted to bring their own trainer, which was not allowed by the house rules. The Authority, however, found that neither the pool occupancy nor the ticket sale data of the pool supported the argument, and the house rules were modified only after the investigation was launched to conform to the legal argumentation of the centre.

Besides declaring that the sports centre discriminated against the sports club on the basis of its members’ sexual orientation and gender identity, the Equal Treatment Authority also ordered the centre to pay a fine of 1 million HUF (appr. 3250 EUR), the highest ever fine the Authority has imposed in a sexual orientation / gender identity discrimination case. The Authority also ordered its decision to be published in full on its own and on the sports centre’s website for preventive purposes. The sports centre announced in the media that they will request a judicial review of the Authority’s decision.

Hungary’s equal treatment legislation entered into force in 2004, and it forbids discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, housing, healthcare, social benefits and access to goods and services. The Equal Treatment Authority was set up as an autonomous public body to offer a cheaper and quicker alternative to litigating discrimination cases in court.

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