30,000 in Budapest, Hungary, celebrate Pride, protest anti-LGBTQ law

An estimated 30,000 people took to the streets of Budapest, Hungary, to celebrate the capital’s annual Pride event and protest the country’s recent passing of an anti-LGBTQ law.

Participants and speakers at the Pride event, which had been held virtually in 2020, spoke out against the Prime Minister Viktor Orban-backed law, which bars schools from discussing LGBTQ issues or teaching books with LGBTQ representation or themes.

The law also prohibits TV stations from showing programs with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer representation in the daytime or early evening hours.

Speakers at the event included Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony, who called on Hungarians to show solidarity with LGBTQ citizens, Roma groups and other minorities.

The Pride parade was met with about 80 counterprotesters, who were kept behind a cordon. The group was heard shouting homophobic and pro-Nazi statements. Observers said there were no violent incidents between the groups.

Orban previously responded to international criticism of the new law, including from the European Union, which counts Hungary as a member, by proposing a five-question referendum on whether the public supports the “promotion” of LGBTQ content to children.

The referendum suggestion was criticized by some at Saturday’s march who said it was made up of leading questions.

“Even if you support LGBT rights, you wouldn’t automatically say yes to these questions,” LGBTQ activist Akos Modolo, 26, told CNN. “The government is using this as a political tool.”

Modolo said the government’s strategy is to “always look for an enemy to blame” so it can “appeal to the anger of the voters.”

“It’s important to have a discussion,” Modolo said. “But this is not a discussion — it’s a hate campaign.”