Recently, I talked with my classmates at the university about participating in the Budapest Pride festival. They looked at me as if I had said something very strange. They asked me why would I go there or even why do we need such events? Everybody has equal rights in the society, so it is not just a way of ‘showing off’? They argued that the goal of such a celebration could only be exhibitionism and provocation.
Thus, I started to think about what they had said. Do LGBT people have equal rights? Or, rather, are they really considered as equal, valuable part of the society in the eyes of the Hungarians?
In recent years, there was noticeable progress in creating equal rights for LGBT people. The laws recognize the civil union of same-sex couples. They forbid any discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in terms of employment, social security, and health services, housing, education, and training or access to goods and services.
The violent crimes committed against LGBT people are considered to be similar to race crimes and they are punished equally severely.
Putting the legal framework aside, surveys show that more than half of the Hungarians think that everybody should have the opportunity to love freely regardless of their sexual orientation, which also means that LGBT people should be given equal rights as well.
Nevertheless, the ones who think they should be given the right to marry represent only a minority in the society. The question of adopting children also remains a highly controversial topic.
Attitude towards LGBT Community in Hungary
Despite all the legal guarantees, according to a 2012 European survey, the situation of the LGBT community in Hungary is far from ideal.
53% of the Hungarian respondents said that the expressions of hatred and aversion towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender in public are fairly widespread, and 30% of them said the phenomenon is very widespread.
65% of the respondents avoid holding hands in public with a same-sex partner for fear of being assaulted, threatened, or harassed.
Facing all these data, we could ask the question: Is there nothing to be done to improve the situation? And we obviously turn to the government, the highest level of executive power. Does the government have some positive measures or policies to promote respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, or bisexual people?
According to 80% of the Hungarian respondents, these measures are considered fairly rare or very rare.
One could argue that this survey was published in 2013 and that since then, surely, there was some improvement regarding the view on the LGBT community. Possibly, still, it already seems clear that in Hungary LGBT people are not treated equally.
Since the 2010 electoral victory of the Fidesz party, when the Orbán regime was formed, the Parliament approved a new Constitution, which states that family can only be formed by a woman and a man, thus excluding same-sex couples from the term.
However, we do not need to go back in time, we may simply inspect the recent communication from the pro-government parties in public life.
In January 2019, a state-owned cultural television channel of public service broadcasted a program about how to cure homosexuality. Even though the participants tried to avoid calling homosexuals sick, they consequently talked about curing them.
According to amedia authority, the program did not violate any basic human rights, although it did conceive a different notion from the mainstream view.
In March, MP Dóra Dúró, a member of the far-right Mi Hazánk party, claimed in the Parliament that “homosexual propaganda should be banned from schools”, having in mind information campaigns about homosexuality. She also called this a matter of national strategy.
Also in March, the youth movement of the same party disturbed and hindered a projection of an LGBT movie in Szeged.
Recently, it was revealed that from the network of the town-hall of Budapest the access to many sites of gay rights movements has been blocked. These websites offer legal assistance, information, or psychological aid to LGBTQI people.
The involved civil organizations turned to the Authority of Equal Treatment in March, which declared the practice of the town-hall illicit and imposed a fine of 1 million Forint for the capital.
In April, Ottó Gajdics, a journalist with very close ties to the government, put forward a rather interesting notion of tolerance. In a conversation about the new Ikea campaign, which features a supposedly lesbian family, he stated:
“They can do whatever they want, but don’t call that a family. Since the Bible, the term family has many beautiful definitions. This, what they say, doesn’t belong to those and it doesn’t have to, because we are tolerant and welcoming, we can live with them as we do with dry dog poop in the ditch. We do not even kick them over”.
The views of Gajdics provoked outrage from the LGBT community, but no public apology nor any other form of reparation took place.
Possibly the most outrageous and shocking statement came from László Kövér, a speaker of the National Assembly, during the European Parliament campaign. When discussing the rights of the homosexual peopleand the right to adopt children, he said:
“Morally speaking, there is no difference between the attitude of a pedophile and those who ask for this [homosexuals for the adoption of children]. In both cases, the child is an object, product for pleasure, a tool for self-fulfillment”.
He claimed, however, that this is not characteristic for every homosexual, because “a normal homosexual knows the order of the world” and “he or she tries to adapt in a way that he or she does not necessarily consider himself/herself as equal”.
The statement was not condemned by any member of the government or the ruling Fidesz party. Gergely Gulyás, the Minister of Prime Minister’s Office, even tried to defend László Kövér by saying that the same-sex couples who ask for adoption are selfish because every child has the right to have a father and a mother.
These kinds of statements from governmental representatives or those who are close to the ruling Fidesz-KNDP parties are not uncommon.
MP Lajos Kósa (Fidesz) and MP Zsolt Semjén (leader of KNDP) have made homophobic comments many times.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called homosexuality a lifestyle.
When these statements, claims, or “jokes” come from the highest level of the country’s administration without any kind of concern, can anybody say that there is unquestionable equality among the citizens of the country? Are LGBT people treated with the same respect? Are they valued equally?
The major concern regarding these homophobic comments is those who say they do not think about the further consequences.
When the speaker of the National Assembly can call homosexual people secondary citizens without any kind of regret, what message does that deliver? He might say it and forget about it completely 5 seconds later, but there are people who are afraid to take the hand of their beloved in public because of the fear of being harassed.
This is why the Pride movement is important today. This is why people are marching through the streets.