Thousands turn out for Budapest Pride in courageous protest of Viktor Orbán

Crowds of LGBTQ+ activists march across Budapest.

Thousands of LGBTQ+ people and allies proved that the spirit of Pride is still alive in Hungary as they turned out to march at Budapest’s 28th annual Pride event on Saturday (15 July).

The community came together to celebrate Budapest Pride against the backdrop of an increasingly hostile legislative environment for LGBTQ+ citizens in Hungary.

Before the march began at City Park, Pride organiser Jojo Majercsik publicly condemned Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán for legislation he passed in 2021 which bans depictions of homosexuality for under-18s.

Protestors the 28th Budapest Pride March, in Budapest, Hungary, on 15 July 2023. (Balint Szentgallay/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Speaking to the Associated Press, Majercsik said: “You can now see how the propaganda law passed two years ago is being applied in practice and how the public discourse has become more angry.

“It is now apparent how they are trying to limit the rights of LGBTQ people in the media world, in the world of movies, films and books.”

He cited several instances of media censorship against LGBTQ+ content as a sign of the government’s stance on the community, including a national bookseller who was fined around $36,000 for openly displaying Alice Oseman’s queer graphic novel Heartstopper in its youth literature section.

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Pushback against this anti-LGBTQ+ agenda was made abundantly clear during the march, which ran through the Hungarian capital.

One marcher told Reuters that the Pride movement should be a “pioneer of freedom of expression” but that acceptance in the European country was dwindling.

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“Unfortunately, I have to say that being proud of being gay is not as accepted in Hungary as in the West,” makeup artist Gergely Varga said.

Among the attendees was US ambassador to Hungary, David Pressman, who had hosted an LGBTQ+ family Pride picnic at his official residence earlier in the day.

Following the march, Pressman wrote that he was “proud” to represent the US alongside Hungarian LGBTQ+ activists to “advance human rights for all Hungarians“.

US Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman (C) holds their national flag during the LGBTQ+ Pride Parade in Budapest, Hungary, on 15 July 2023. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)

His participation came just days after his embassy and several others signed a joint statement decrying Orbán’s far-right rhetoric.

More than 60 different embassies and cultural institutes from across the globe rejected the “acts of violence, hate speech, harassment, stigmatisation, and discrimination” committed against Hungarian individuals based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

“We stress the inviolability of human dignity, the right to freedom of expression and information, the right to private family life, and the right to non-discrimination for all,” the joint statement read. Notably, Israel refused to sign.

EU member states have also sprung into action with ongoing legal proceedings that could threaten Hungary’s status in the union.

Countries including France, Belgium and Germany have joined legal action, arguing that the LGBTQ+ censorship bill – known as the ‘Child Protection Act’ – infringed upon several EU human rights laws as well as its values.

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Amnesty International Hungary director David Vig described Pride events in Hungary as more clearly about protesting in comparison to the celebratory nature of many Western European and North American events.

“This is really a human rights demonstration,” Vig said. “This is for social acceptance and this is for equal rights, because in Hungary, these are not secured.

“We are second-class citizens in many spheres of public life.”

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