Thousands march in Budapest Pride to protest Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws – including US ambassador

US Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman (L) greets participants as he takes part in the Budapest Pride Parade in Budapest, Hungary on June 22, 2024. (Photo by Ferenc ISZA / AFP) (Photo by FERENC ISZA/AFP via Getty Images)

The US ambassador to Hungary has condemned Viktor Orbán’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in a powerful speech during Budapest Pride.

Over 30,000 people marched at Budapest Pride on Saturday (22 June) according to local media.

One of them was the US ambassador David Pressman, who is gay and has twin sons with his partner, and who accused prime minister Orbán of using a “machinery of fear” to demean queer people.

The US Embassy to Hungary was one of 44 embassies to sign a statement supporting the Budapest Pride earlier in the week, stating their support for members of the LGBTQ+ community “and their rights to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and freedom from violence.”

While homosexuality is legal in Hungary, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is outlawed, marriage is defined as between a man and a woman. Transgender men cannot change their legal gender and queer couples are not allowed to adopt.

Orbán’s right-wing government has been cracking down on the LGBTQ+ community for the past few years.

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In 2021, he passed a law banning discussion of LGBTQ+ people in schools and in the media, similar to Russia’s “anti-propaganda” bill. In response, the EU launched a legal action against Hungary and froze funding to the country.

But at the beginning of this year, Orbán doubled down on his stance, saying “no money in the world” would make him accept what he called LGBTQ+ propaganda.

Speaking at a family Pride even at the ambassador’s residence, Pressman said: “Fear is something those who seek to undermine democracy trade on, and their currency too often is you and your families.

David Pressman speaks to journalists during Budapest Pride Parade at the weekend. (FERENC ISZA/AFP via Getty Images)

“At a Pride march organised by Hungarians in Pécs last year, I walked alongside a friend, fellow ambassador, and fellow parent,” Pressman said, according to The Guardian.

“The cameras of the government-controlled media were trained on me – as they are now – and filmed us as he introduced me to his five-year-old child.

“The news that evening reported on ‘spotting’ my interaction with this child, and sinisterly described that I was seen ‘interacting with children’. They didn’t need to finish the sentence, they let fear do the rest.”

He noted he was originally scheduled to give his speech at the Hungarian parliament building but was prevented from doing so by a senior member of Orbán’s populist Fidesz party.

“The speaker denied the parliamentarians’ request to host an event on human rights in parliament, a space that is meant to represent all Hungarians,” Pressman added.

He went on to draw parallels between Russia and Hungary and criticised how the Hungarian government deals with critics.

“When a popular musician or social media influencer urges the people of Hungary to vote, they are a paedophile or a pervert. When political opposition leaders exhort citizens to support alternative policies, they are mentally unstable agents of a foreign power. When people stand with a war’s victims, they are the aggressors.

“These attacks – whether legal, rhetorical or reputational – erode the liberties of the Hungarian people, of the Hungarian soul. Whenever politicians anywhere seek to profit by twisting love into hate, integrity into depravity… we must pay attention.”

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