Thousands of Hungarians marched in Budapest’s biggest Pride parade on Saturday, amid tension sparked by a series of anti-LGBTQ steps by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
After an “anti-pedophilia” law was adopted by the Hungarian Parliament last month, Orban’s critics at home and in Brussels have accused him of conflating pedophilia with homosexuality.
“Many people are dismayed at the new law and the anti-gay propaganda,” said Johanna Majercsik, a spokesperson for the Budapest Pride organizer.
“They want to show their support for the LGBTQ community,” Majercsik said, adding that this year’s parade was the biggest in its 26-year history.
According to an Agence France-Presse photographer, more than 10,000 people took part in the colorful parade, which moved along a main boulevard before crossing the Danube River to finish in a park.
Although Orban portrays the bill as protecting children, LGBTQ leaders say that it stigmatizes homosexuals and aims to shore up the premier’s radical right-wing support ahead of an election next year.
“I’ve never been at a Pride before, although I always rooted for LGBTQ people and understood their problems, but this year I really got angry as there is so much propaganda against them, they need to see many people supporting them,” said Zsofi Varadi, a 46-year-old mother of two, before putting on a rainbow-colored T-shirt.
Varadi then headed off on the parade, which passed off peacefully.
Rainbow-colored flags hung from several balconies on buildings along the route, while placards carried by the marches mocked Orban and his ruling Fidesz party whose lawmakers introduced the bill to parliament.
Orban on Wednesday said that a national vote would be held to gauge domestic support for the law. The move came after the European Commission launched legal action against Budapest over the measure.
A group of about 200 counterprotesters along the route held banners reading “Stop LGBTQ pedophilia,” and shouted homophobic insults over lines of police who separated them from the marchers.
“The anti-pedophilia law has given patriots like us a weapon to protect our children from deviants like them,” a speaker told counterprotesters through a megaphone.
Since the law was on June 15 approved by the Fidesz-dominated parliament, several homophobic attacks have been reported on local media, while LGBTQ advocates have warned of growing fear in their community.
“It’s kind of scary to be honest, to be myself as a gender-fluid person, you can be beaten up or stuff like that,” said Artur, a 16-year-old marcher.
“Pride marches in eastern Europe especially are less about celebration and more about protest, with more to protest against every year,” said Luca Dudits, 24, who coheads the Hatter Society LGBTQ rights group. “It is now more important than ever to take to the streets together in this fight for the rights and freedom of LGBTQ people.”
Several dozen ambassadors based in the Hungarian capital also attended the march, after more than 40 embassies and foreign cultural institutes earlier last week issued a joint statement of support for LGBTQ rights.
The latest legislation is seen by its supporters as part of Orban’s project since he took power in 2010 to reshape Hungary into a so-called “illiberal” socially conservative bastion.
The latest law was originally limited to tougher action against child sexual abuse, but its final version banned the “depiction or promotion” of homosexuality and gender reassignment to those under the age of 18.
The referendum called by Orban would comprise five questions, including asking Hungarians if they agree that schools should be permitted to “talk about sexuality to their children without their consent.”
It would also ask them if they support “the promotion of sex reassignment treatment for minors” or the “unrestricted exposure of children to harmful sexual content.”
No date has been set for the referendum.
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