Image by naeim a from Pixabay

Thousands of people have attended Saturday’s (24 July) Budapest Pride march in support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Advocates and allies lined the streets of Hungary’s capital to use their voices to protest Prime Minister Victor Orbán and the country’s new anti-LGBTQ+ law. 

Last month, lawmakers passed legislation banning “content promoting gender change or homosexuality” within the school curriculum.

The bill has widely been compared to Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, which was passed in 2013, that bans disseminating “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relations” among Russians.

One Pride demonstrator told Reuters that the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation was an “outrage”, stating: “We live in the 21st century, when things like that should not be happening. We are no longer in communist times, this is the EU and everyone should be able to live freely.” 

Boglarka Balazs, an economist who attended the march, referred to the controversial law as a campaign tool for Orbán and his government’s reelection. 

“This is nothing more than a diversion that tires to tear the country apart. It is a provocation because of the elections,” she told Reuters. 

Since the bill passed, the European Commission announced plans to take legal action against Hungary.

MEPs called the legislation “a clear breach of the EU’s values, principles and law” and last week urged the European Commission to pursue a legal case against Orbán’s government.

459 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favour of the resolution, with 147 against and 58 abstaining in Strasbourg. If the case is brought to the European Court of Justice, Hungary could face financial penalties.

Ursula Von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, called the law “disgraceful” in a statement.

“This law uses the protection of children, to which we are all committed, as an excuse to severely discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. This law is disgraceful.”

Alongside the EU’s pushback, close to 40 embassies signed an open letter in support of the Pride march and the LGBTQ+ community. 

“On the occasion of the 26th Budapest Pride Festival, we, the undersigned embassies and cultural institutes, express our full support for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) community,” the letter said.

Even with the threat of legal action, Orbán claims that the anti-LGBTQ+ law has been put in place to protect children. 

“The European Parliament and the European Commission want that we let LGBTQ activists and organisations into the kindergartens and schools. Hungary does not want that,” Orbán said previously. “Here Brussels bureaucrats have no business at all.”

Recently, Orbán announced that the Hungary government will be holding a referendum for the controversial law.

“LGBTQ+ activists visit kindergartens and schools and conduct sexual education classes. They want to do this here in Hungary as well,” he stated in a Facebook video on Wednesday (21 July).

Related: Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán to hold referendum on anti-LGBTQ+ law