Thousands of Hungarians joined the annual Budapest Pride March to support LGBTQ people and protest a law that limits the teaching of homosexuality and transgender issues in schools.
Hungarian Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in power since 2010, has introduced social policies which he says aim to protect traditional Christian values from Western liberalism, stoking tensions with the EU.
The European Commission has launched a lawsuit against Orbán’s government over the law, which entered into force this month, claiming it is discriminatory and contravenes European values of tolerance and individual freedom.
Protesters during the march through the streets of central Budapest on Saturday said the legislation divided the former country from the Soviet bloc and now a member of the EU.
“The law is a contempt. We are living in the 21st century, when such things shouldn’t be happening. We are no longer in the communist era, it is the EU and everyone should be able to live freely, ”said Istvan, 27, during the walk with her boyfriend.
Orbán’s Christian Democrat government Fidesz, which faces a tough election next year, has said LGBTQ rights and other such social issues fall under the purview of national governments. He says the law is meant to protect children, not to target gay people.
Organizers said in a statement that the rally would oppose “power-hungry politicians” and reject bullying of LGBTQ people.
“Instead of protecting minorities, the Fidesz Christian Democratic government is using laws to exclude members of the LGBTQ community from their own country,” they said.
Orbán owes part of his electoral success to a hard line on immigration. As this issue moved off the political agenda, its focus shifted to gender and sexuality.
Boglarka Balazs, a 25-year-old economist who joined the rally, said the legislation was a campaign tool. “It’s nothing more than a diversion trying to tear the country apart. It is a provocation because of the elections, ”she declared.
A poll carried out last month by polling organization Ipsos found that 46% of Hungarians were in favor of same-sex marriage.
More than 40 foreign embassies and cultural institutions in Hungary have issued a statement supporting the Budapest Pride Festival.
“We encourage action taken in every country to ensure the equality and dignity of all human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the signatories wrote, including the US, UK and German embassies. .
Balint Berta, 29, who works at a clothing retailer, said the legislation created artificial tensions in society. “The more politics push for this, the more society will turn and people will turn on each other after a while,” he said.