Pride events are taking place across Ireland and the world after a week that brought grim reminders that the struggle for equality for the LGBTI+ community remains as vital as ever. At a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, prime ministers and presidents rounded on Hungary's Viktor Orban, angrily denouncing the passage of a disgraceful law that bans the portrayal of gay people in content for under-18s and links being gay or trans with paedophilia. The law is consistent with Orban's tactic of targeting minorities to shore up his electoral base – the far-right demagogue is facing an election next year and is under pressure from the opposition – and mimics an infamous Russian law on "gay propaganda".
The EU has been growing ever more alarmed by the authoritarian drift in Hungary under Orban, whose government has restricted NGOs, curtailed media and academic freedoms, demonised migrants and asserted political control over the judiciary. But inadequate tools for sanctioning states that breach core EU values combined with the failure to secure unanimous support for any such action – Poland, and on occasion Slovenia, have stood in shameful solidarity with Budapest – have impeded collective action. With Hungary's hateful anti-LGBTI+ law, however, a red line has been crossed. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is reported to have asked Orban why he wanted to remain part of the EU and suggested that Hungary leave the union entirely. Orban stands against almost everything the EU stands for, but he has no incentive to leave; on the contrary, the flow of EU cash helps keep Orban in power. It's beyond time that such funding be withheld.
The Hungarian law has been rightly condemned across the political spectrum in Ireland, where huge strides have been made in recent years in creating a more equal and inclusive society. Having decriminalised homosexuality only in 1993, landmark legal reforms in the intervening period, including marriage equality and gender recognition laws, have made the country a leader on LGBTI+ rights. But the danger of complacency is very real. Tackling prejudice remains a work in progress. In the past two weeks alone, rainbow flags have been burned in Waterford and a wall near a well-known Dublin gay was daubed with a homophobic slur. Children encounter anti-gay bullying, and LGBTI+ people are at significantly higher risk of experiencing mental distress. Some parts of that community – such as people of colour, Travellers and asylum seekers – face additional obstacles.
Pride is a celebration – of difference, of individuality, of love itself. After the trauma of the past year, that sense of communal joy, even in virtual form, is important. But Pride is also a civil rights movement – one with radical roots and a set of goals that have yet to be fully achieved.