Thousands of Hungarians planned to join the annual Budapest Pride march on Saturday in a show of support for LGBT people and to protest against a law banning the use of materials in schools seen as promoting homosexuality and gender reassignment.
Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in power since 2010, has grown increasingly radical on social policy in what he portrays as a fight to safeguard traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.
The European Commission has launched legal action against Orban’s government over the new law, which came into force this month, saying it is discriminatory and contravenes European values of tolerance and individual freedom.
Orban’s government, which faces a tough election next year, says matters such as LGBT rights are for national governments to decide and says it will call a referendum on the reform. It says the law is not about targeting homosexuals but about protecting Hungary’s children.
Organisers of Saturdays’ march have called on supporters to stand up against hatred and resist attempts by what they called “power-hungry politicians” to intimidate LGBT people.
“The recent past has been very demanding, distressing and frightening for the LGBTQ community,” they said in a statement.
“Instead of protecting minorities, the Fidesz-Christian Democrat government is using laws to make members of the LGBTQ community outcasts in their own country.”
Several civil rights groups have criticised Orban’s reforms and a survey last month by the Ipsos polling organisation found that 46% of Hungarians support same-sex marriage.
On Monday, more than 40 foreign cultural institutions and embassies in Hungary, including those of the United States, Britain and Germany, published a joint statement in support of the Budapest Pride Festival.
“Concerned by recent developments that threaten the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, we encourage steps in every country to ensure the equality and dignity of all human beings irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” they said.