By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Thousands attended the Budapest Pride March in Hungary’s capital to express anger about a crackdown on LGBTQI+ community depictions by the rightwing government, which supports “traditional families and Christian values.”
Organizers said at least 35,000 people participated in the 28th annual event, though those numbers were difficult to verify.
The rally attended by the U.S. and other diplomats came as Hungarian legislation banning the depiction of homosexuality or gender transition to minors under 18 is enforced more regularly.
Saturday’s Pride March came after national bookseller Líra Kiskereskedelmi Kft was fined 12 million forints ($36,000) after placing Heartstopper by British author Alice Oseman in its youth literature section. It also failed to put the book in closed packaging as required by a 2021 law, authorities said.
Heartstopper, a love story about two teenage boys, was adapted for television and turned into a series for the video streaming service Netflix, with a second season due in August.
Additionally, television commercials promoting Pride were banned most of the day, with broadcasters even being afraid to air them late at night, well-informed sources said.
Several far-right activists tried to disrupt the Pride March. “The atmosphere here is more tense than in Belgium, where I lived more than 13 years,” said Atilla, a young Hungarian man participating in the Rainbow Party in Budapest Park that ended the Pride event.
“Unlike in Western Europe, people here feel they must fight for their rights,” he told Worthy News. It’s more serious, less fun, added Atilla, who declined to give his family name.
Several far-right activists tried to interrupt the rally, though a massive police presence ensured the March went peacefully. Rights group Amnesty International also complained that a Budapest bench they painted in rainbow colors had been defaced.
However, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán denied his government discriminates against adult lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people. But he said the legislation was designed to protect children against LGTBQI+ “sexual propaganda.”
Orbán, who has close ties with conservatives in the United States, promotes traditional families, including with financial incentives and tax breaks. His government also views itself as a defender of Christian civilization from “gender madness.”
Yet the embassies of the United States, Germany, and 36 other countries urged Hungary’s government over the weekend to “protect the rights” of LGBTQI+ people and scrap laws that “discriminate” against them.
The embassies and about 10 cultural institutions, including the British Council, the Estonian Institute, and Institut Français, said they supported Saturday’s event.
“We are concerned with legislation and political rhetoric, including in Hungary, that is in tension with principles of non-discrimination, international human rights law, and human dignity, and contributes to the stigmatization of the LGBTQI+ community,” their statement read.
“We stress the need for leaders and governments, here and elsewhere, to show respect for and protect the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals and communities and to eliminate laws and policies that discriminate against them,” it added.
The European Union’s executive European Commission agrees with the statement.
It has referred EU member Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the 2021 law.
The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the legislation a “disgrace.”
Her views are shared by U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman, an openly gay human rights lawyer, who was among diplomats attending Saturday’s Budapest Pride March.
Yet several Christians and conservatives have expressed support for Orbán’s view that “parents, not activists,” should be involved in the sexual education of children and the struggles they may face.
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