BUDAPEST, Hungary – Growing anger at the policies of the right-wing Hungarian government took to the streets of the country’s capital on Saturday as thousands of LGBTQ supporters marched in the annual Budapest Pride Parade.
March organizers expected record crowds at the event and called on attendees to voice their opposition to recent steps taken by the government of populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban which critics say stigmatize sexual minorities in this event. central European countries.
Budapest Pride spokesperson Jojo Majercsik said this year’s march is not just a celebration and remembrance of the historic struggles of the LGBTQ movement, but a protest against Orban’s current policies targeting gay people. , lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer.
“A lot of LGBTQ people are scared and don’t feel like they have a place or a future in this country anymore,” Majercsik told The Associated Press.
The march came after a controversial law passed by Hungary’s parliament in June banned the posting of content to minors depicting homosexuality or gender shifting. The measures were attached to a bill allowing more severe penalties for pedophiles.
The Hungarian government says its policies are aimed at protecting children. But critics of the legislation compare it to Russia’s 2013 gay propaganda law and say it confuses homosexuality with pedophilia in a campaign ploy to mobilize conservative voters ahead of the spring election. next.
The legislation has met strong opposition from many politicians in the European Union, of which Hungary is a member. The Executive Board of the 27-nation bloc last week launched two separate legal proceedings against the Hungarian government for what it called violations of LGBTQ rights.
Saturday’s march passed through central Budapest and crossed the Danube on one of the iconic structures connecting the two halves of the city: the Freedom Bridge.
Mira Nagy, a 16-year-old Pride participant and member of Hungary’s LGBTQ community, said this year’s Pride walk had special significance.
“This year is much more important because now there are real issues,” she said. “Our situation is pretty bad… My plan is that if things get even worse, I will leave Hungary.”
The law also requires that only civic organizations approved by the government can provide sex education in schools, and limits the availability of media content and literature to minors discussing sexual orientation.
Pride walker Anasztazia Orosz said it would prevent young people from accessing important information and validating their own sexual orientation.
“It was really hard for me to get out, and the only thing that made it easier for me was that I found a storybook on LGBT topics,” Orosz said. “This is how I learned that what I feel is something real, that I am no different.
On Wednesday, Orban announced that the government would hold a nationwide referendum to demonstrate public support for the law. The poll will ask Hungarians whether children should be introduced to the topics of sexual orientation in schools, and whether gender reassignment should be promoted or portrayed to children.
Yet Majercsik, the spokesperson for Pride, said the questions were “blatantly transphobic and homophobic” and part of a government “propaganda campaign” to incite resentment against the LGBTQ community.
“I have heard from a lot of LGBT people who are planning to leave the country and will not even wait for the elections next year,” said Majercsik. “There will be many more for whom the election results will determine whether they stay or leave.”
Several members of opposition parties attended the march, including liberal Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony, a challenger to Orban in next year’s election which is expected to be the closest since Orban’s party took over. power in 2010.
Several small counter-demonstrations took place in the center of Budapest.
Terry Reintke, an EU lawmaker kicked off the march with a speech, saying Europe’s eyes were on Budapest.
“There are many, many more than the thousands here today,” said Reintke.
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