Thousands of people joined the annual Budapest Pride march on July 24 in a show of support for the LGBT community and to protest a Hungarian law banning the “promotion” of homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors.
The new law, which came into force earlier this month, has become a target of Europe’s LGBT community and their allies, putting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conservative government again at odds with Brussels.
The European Commission last week launched legal action against Budapest over the new law, saying it is discriminatory and contravenes European values of tolerance and individual freedom.
Orban’s nationalist Fidesz party says the LGBT-related measures, which were added at the last minute to a law strengthening crimes of pedophilia, aim to protect children and families and do not target adult homosexuals.
The march wound through the center of Budapest and crossed the Danube River, drawing several thousand people from across Hungary and Europe.
Demonstrators said the legislation was only the latest government action targeting the LGBT community, following an effective ban last year on adoption by same-sex couples and gender change in personal documents. Hungary has never allowed gay marriage but still recognizes civil unions.
“The government has continued its infamous, exclusionary, stigmatizing campaign against the LGBTQ community,” Budapest Pride said. “While their media forwarded their inciting messages, they used their legal instruments to prevent single-parent adoption, and name and gender change.”
More than 40 embassies and foreign cultural institutions in Hungary issued a statement backing Budapest Pride.
"Concerned by recent developments that threaten the principle of nondiscrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, we encourage steps in every country to ensure the equality and dignity of all human beings irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity," wrote the signatories, including the U.S., British and German embassies
Orban, who is also planning to conduct a referendum on the controversial bill, faces a difficult election next year amid increasing economic difficulties exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Critics say his right-wing government has stepped up its campaign against LGBT people as part of an ongoing drive to depict itself as the guardian of Christian values against Western liberalism that also included blocking migrants from transiting Hungary and closing down private-owned liberal media institutions.
The controversial law also requires that only civic organizations approved by the government can provide sexual education in schools and places limits on media content and literature for minors that discusses sexual orientation.