Budapest to hold Pride march as Hungary piles pressure on LGBT rights

Ireland among states backing community that feels targeted by Orban government

Pride march in Budapest, July 2019. Hungary’s prime minister has said  a referendum will be held to gauge domestic support for a controversial LGBTQ law, after the European Commission launched legal action over the measure. Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images

Pride march in Budapest, July 2019. Hungary’s prime minister has said a referendum will be held to gauge domestic support for a controversial LGBTQ law, after the European Commission launched legal action over the measure. Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images

 

Ireland is among dozens of countries that have expressed support for Hungary’s LGBT community ahead of a Pride march through Budapest that is seen as an act of defiance against the country’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban.

His populist government recently made it illegal to show any content that “promotes” LGBT lifestyles or gender transition to children, in a move that critics say bans everything from effective sex education in schools to the broadcast of a host of mainstream films before a 10pm watershed.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called the law “disgraceful” for linking the LGBT community with paedophilia, and the EU launched legal action over the issue, having previously taking Mr Orban’s proudly “illiberal” government to court over its treatment of migrants and NGOs.

Mr Orban insists the law will protect children and give their parents more control over their sex education. This week he announced a referendum on the matter, in what opponents said was a clear sign that he intends to turn next year’s parliamentary election into a “culture war” by mobilising his conservative base against liberal Hungarians and the EU.

Ireland’s Embassy was among more than 40 foreign delegations and cultural institutions in Budapest that jointly expressed “full support” for members of Hungary’s LGBT community “and their rights to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and freedom from violence”.

‘Concerned’

The signatories said they were “concerned by recent developments that threaten the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity” and urged “elected leaders and governments to show respect for and protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. Budapest Pride has the longest history of such events in the region, and we highlight its role in promoting equality of treatment and social acceptance ... and contributing to the creation of a more open, just, inclusive and equal society.”

Organisers of Saturday’s march hope more than 20,000 people will take to the streets to vent their anger at the government’s tightening grip over everything from Hungary’s media and culture to its justice and education systems.

“We are experiencing a lot of fear in the community and also a lot of resilience and rage,” said Viktoria Radvanyi, a Budapest Pride board member.

“We are hoping a lot of people will be brave enough to come out and march with us and show this amazing support we’ve been seeing in social media and in public opinion polls for the Hungarian LGBTQ community,” she told The Irish Times.

‘Next target’

“This is basically a call to action for everybody who feels anxious and afraid that they will be the next target of government propaganda. Our answer to this...is a call for people to self organise and act up together as a community.”

Ms Radvanyi said anti-LGBT radicals would feel “empowered and legitimised” by Mr Orban’s campaign, but she praised the police for being “very co-operative and professional and unbiased” in tackling security issues around the march.

Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh is expected to attend the march, and said the Hungarian government’s actions “emphasised that equality is hard fought, but can be quickly lost if we do not work collectively to ensure extremists like Orban are held to account”.