BUDAPEST – Thousands of defiant, energetic and proud Hungarians marched through Budapest on Saturday to support the country’s beleaguered LGBTQ community and to protest Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s far-right policies.
Organizers of this year’s Budapest Pride Parade said all appearances of the celebration were also a protest against a recently passed protest. Law Critics say homosexuality equates with child sexual abuse and places severe restrictions on sex education, including a ban on depictions of LGBTQ lifestyles of minors. The law is often compared to the 2013 Russian law banning “gay propaganda” that has been widely criticized by human rights groups.
Many of the marchers said the law represented a troubling display of growing authoritarianism in the central European country.
“We stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community but we also stand with anyone who is threatened by global authoritarian rhetoric,” said Zoltan Adam, associate professor of economics at Corvinus University in Budapest. “This law is another step towards the tyranny that this government has taken.”
Since returning to power in 2010, Mr. Orban, whose government enjoys an overwhelming majority in parliament enabling him to amend the constitution, has introduced laws based on his interpretation of Christian and traditional family values, while reinforcing the community’s view that It differs from progressive liberalism in the West.
The new law has already yielded results. One TV channel has censorship Series ads. Established the second largest bookstore chain in the country Signs Declaring that they are selling “funny content” after they become fined $830 for not classifying a book that depicts same-sex parents as “content that deviates from the norm.”
Less obvious results may be more harmful.
“This law will have a tragic impact on young people, with increased suicides and mental health problems,” said Andras Zolnai, 55, who wore a blue wig and traveled from the eastern city of Debrecen to attend the pride parade.
He said that as a teenager in communist Hungary, “it was much freer than it is now, there was no homophobia or transphobia.” but now, “There is a decline,” he said.
Organizers said attendance at the rally appeared to be the largest in its 26-year history, as the procession took 40 minutes to pass through the city’s streets. Some participants wore T-shirts with “adult content” and “Hungary” wrapped around the number 18, a reference to the fact that the law prohibits “depicting or promoting” homosexuality and transgenderism in front of minors under the age of 18.
Mr. Orban this week announced a referendum on the law by early 2022, ahead of national elections next April.
“This makes homosexuals feel like enemies of the public,” said Peter Kriko, director of Political Capital, a research group in Budapest.
Although Mr. Orban has asserted that he represents the majority of Hungarians, a survey released in mid-June by Zavecz Research found 56 percent of Hungarians accept homosexuality, and another survey at the same time by Ipsos concluded that 46 percent of those surveyed The polls are in favor of the same thing – sexual marriage. Another survey conducted by Ipsos in May concluded that the same number of people believe that same-sex couples should have the same rights to adoption as heterosexuals.
Analysts point out that while Mr. Orban is conservative, the law appears intended to distract from the country’s poor health and economic conditions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and attempt to break the unity of the coalition of opposition parties that have united to oust him in the upcoming elections.
Orbán’s Fidesz party “is doing this for their own purposes: they need to reach out to the party’s radical wing and this is one possible way to do that,” said Zelke Kasaki of the US democracy watchdog Freedom House.
“Many have lost their jobs or are in a difficult situation after Covid, and such ideological messages can work well for them,” she said.
Others say the law, written vaguely, is an attempt to shift the focus away from recent corruption scandals and democratic shortcomings to identity politics. Hungary has repeatedly clashed with the European Union, which it joined in 2004, over these policies.
The 27-member bloc has started two separate legal proceedings against Hungary over the recently passed law. The European Union has also delayed and threatened to withhold the payment of $8.5 billion in post-coronavirus recovery aid over concerns about Hungary’s judicial independence and the shortcomings of its anti-corruption strategy.
Mr. Urban has sought to blame the funding delays on his protection of family values.
“Corruption is mentioned a lot, but it is clearly a cover story,” he said on Friday.
Speakers at the Pride Parade didn’t buy that.
“The Hungarian government is orchestrating a campaign of hate and fear and scapegoating the LGBTQ community to divert attention from systemic corruption,” said Terje Rincke, a MEP for Germany’s Green Party, before the march began.
“This goes beyond Hungary – this is a European issue.”
At the Pride Parade, Zonia Szabo, 15, wondered how her education might be affected by the new law. But she’s mostly worried about her peers, who are still exploring their identities, and her LGBTQ friends and family.
“Some of them are living abroad, and they no longer feel safe going back to Hungary because of the law,” she said.