Thousands march in Hungary Pride parade to oppose LGBT law

Hungary Gay Pride

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Rising anger over the policies of Hungary's right-wing government filled the streets of the country's capital on Saturday as thousands of LGBT supporters marched in the annual Budapest Pride parade.

March organizers expected record crowds at the event, and called on participants to express their opposition to recent steps by populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government that critics say stigmatize sexual minorities in the Central European country.

Budapest Pride spokesperson Jojo Majercsik said this year's march is not just a celebration and remembrance of the historical struggles of the LGBT movement but a protest against Orban's current policies targeting gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people.

“A lot of LGBTQ people are afraid and don’t feel like they have a place or a future in this country anymore,” Majercsik told The Associated Press.

The march came after a controversial law passed by Hungary's parliament in June prohibited the display of content to minors that depicts homosexuality or gender change. The measures were attached to a bill allowing tougher penalties for pedophiles.

Hungary's government says its policies seek to protect children. But critics of the legislation compare it to Russia's gay propaganda law of 2013, and say it conflates homosexuality with pedophilia as part of a campaign ploy to mobilize conservative voters ahead of elections next spring.

The legislation was met with fierce opposition by many politicians in the European Union, of which Hungary is a member. The Executive Commission of the 27-nation bloc launched two separate legal proceedings against Hungary's government last week over what it called infringements on LGBT rights.

Saturday's march wound through the center of Budapest and crossed the Danube River on one of the iconic structures connecting the city’s two halves: Liberty Bridge.

Mira Nagy, a 16-year-old Pride attendee and member of Hungary's LGBT community, said this year's Pride march has special meaning.

“This year is much more significant, because now there are real stakes,” she said. “Our situation is pretty bad … My plan is that if things get even worse, I will leave Hungary.”

The law also requires that only civic organizations approved by the government can provide sexual education in schools, and limits the availability of media content and literature to minors that discusses sexual orientation.