Hungary museum director sacked over LGBTQ+ exhibition

The director of Hungary’s National Museum in Budapest has been dismissed after allowing under-18 visitors into an LGBTQ+ exhibition.

The World Press Photo exhibition featured shots of LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines taken by photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales.

Hungarian government officials claim that museum director Lazlo Simon failed to meet “legal obligations” with the exhibition by allegedly letting under-18s view the exhibition – a claim that Simon has denied.

The World Press Photo exhibition in Hungary’s National Museum featured shots of LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines. (Getty Images)

As of 2021, Hungary has enforced a ban on the “display and promotion of homosexuality” in materials accessible to children, including books and films.

The controversial ban was passed by right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, to the horror of LGBTQ+ and human rights activist groups, as well as the EU.

That ban was cited by far-right political party Mi Hazank who demanded a government inquiry into the exhibition.

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On Monday (6 November), the country’s minister for culture and innovation claimed that Simon had been dismissed due to his failure to comply with the “legal obligations of the institution.”

After a government inquiry into the running of the exhibition, the National Museum argued that they had no right to ID visitors, but that they had made it clear that under-18s were not to visit the exhibition through messaging on its website and at the exhibition entrance.

Simon has acknowledged his dismissal in a post to social media but insists that he did not intentionally break any laws.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has led an anti-LGBTQ+ regime, wears a white shirt, orange tie and blue jacket as he stares somewhere off camera
Hungary’s ban on the “display and promotion of homosexuality” was enforced by Viktor Orban’s government in 2021. (Getty)

In a post to Facebook, he wrote: “As a father and grandparent of four children, I firmly reject the idea that our children should be protected from me or from the institution I lead.”

World Press Photo’s executive director Joumana El Zein Khoury also reacted to Simon’s dismissal, saying they were “shocked” by the decision and noting that this was the first time a World Press Photo show had been censored in Europe.

“This series of photos is a thoughtful and honest record of the lives of a community of older LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines”, he said, per the BBC.

Commenting on the exhibition restrictions, before Simon’s dismissal was announced, photographer Hannah Reyes Morales told AP News she was “beyond saddened.”

“What is harmful is limiting visibility for the LGBTQ+ community and their right to exist and to be seen.”

This latest anti-LGBTQ+ measure comes just months after Hungarian authorities enforced the same law to fine a bookseller thousands for selling copies of the graphic novel Heartstopper without wrapping it in a plastic cover.

Viktor Orban has long used his position to promote so-called “traditional family values” and outright strip LGBTQ+ rights.

“The European Parliament and the European Commission want us to allow LGBTQ activists into our nursery and elementary schools,” he said of the ban shortly after it passed.

“No matter how hard they try, we won’t allow LGBT+ activists among our children in nursery and elementary schools”.

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