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Denmark, Sweden host largest post-pandemic LGBTQ rights conference

Activists from around the world attended WorldPride 2021

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WorldPride 2021 Director of Human Rights Aron Le Fevre (Photo courtesy of Aron Le Fevre)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The WorldPride 2021 Human Rights Conference that took place this week in Copenhagen was the largest in-person LGBTQ rights gathering since the pandemic began.

“We have activists coming from all over the world to this conference,” said WorldPride 2021 Director of Human Rights Aron Le Fevre. “My team has worked tirelessly to create one of the largest LGBTQI+ human rights forums in the world.”

More than 1,000 LGBTQ activists from around the world — including from both the Global North and Global South — attended the conference.

Le Fevre told the Los Angeles Blade that 215 activists received scholarships. Some of these recipients come from the 69 countries that criminalize homosexuality or have been forcibly expelled from their homes because of their sexuality.

“What many do not realize is that coming to WorldPride is the only chance that those of us in the Global South have to network and make connections that are vital to our work,” said Ryan Figueiredo, the founder and executive director of Equal AF, an LGBTQ organization that uses data and future scoping to build resilience in LGBTQ communities.

Figueiredo is also a scholarship recipient.

“Those that are in the Global North also do not realize that their spots are secure and that organizations like mine have to work even harder with less resources to get visibility and space to continue our activism,” he said. “We need to speak for ourselves and not have others speak for us.”

Scholarship recipients throughout the conference were able to meet with MPs, U.N. representatives and other global leaders.

A two-day summit took place in the Swedish city of Malmö, which is 20 miles from Copenhagen.

“Uniquely this is the first WorldPride in history that includes, as part of the human rights forum, a full day international summit on LGBTQI+ refugees, borders and immigration,” said Eirene Chen, an independent specialist in LGBTQ forced displacement who once worked for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, spoke about the changes he said need to take place for LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers.

“There is a need for a renewed knowledge base to create policy and action that needs to be taken for those who have been displaced.” said Madrigal-Borloz.

Hundreds of refugees, activists and officials listened to his remarks. The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration and other organizations attended the summit.

“After such a long time apart, ORAM is thrilled at the opportunity to collaborate and reconnect with partners, activist and politicians at Copenhagen 2021,” said ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth. “The conference has re-energized the community at a really critical time and has united us together in the fight to advance the rights of the LGBTIQ community around the world.”

Copenhagen Pride — which coincided with WorldPride — focused on social justice issues.

Many art installations, music venues, and culture experiences throughout the city focused on themes of social justice. A space in downtown Copenhagen called the Fluid Festival — which embraced fluidity within gender identity, expression and sexuality — was the most popular attraction.

The Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan and the frantic effort to get LGBTQ Afghans, women, journalists and other vulnerable groups out of the country loomed large over the conference.

“This really bears as a witness as to why this work is so important,” said an LGBTQ activist from Afghanistan who asked the Blade to remain anonymous in order to protect their family. “We truly are working to save lives while we are attending this summit.”

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Czech lower house rejects equal marriage bill

Lawmakers agree to “compromise” bill expands same-sex couples’ rights, allows stepchild adoption but senators have vowed to continue fighting

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A session of the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of the Czech Republic. (Photo Credit: Parliament of the Czech Republic)

By Rob Salerno | PRAGUE, Czech Republic – The lower house of the Czech parliament rejected a bid to allow same-sex marriage in the Central European country Wednesday afternoon, instead passing a compromise bill that expand the rights of same-sex couples in registered partnerships and allow them to adopt each other’s biological stepchildren.

The bill heads to the senate, where some senators have vowed to continue fighting for full equality.

Czechia has allowed same-sex couples to form registered partnerships since 2006, but these accorded limited rights compared to marriage. Notably, same-sex couples were barred from adoption, and were not allowed a widow’s pension or joint property rights.

Lawmakers were debating a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage, as well as a set of proposed amendments that would have instead expanded the rights of couples in registered partnerships. While a parliamentary committee had recommended that lawmakers vote on the proposals from the most expansive to the least expansive, parliament instead reversed that order. In the event, the proposal for full equal marriage didn’t even come for a vote as the compromise amendment was passed first. 

Under the compromise bill passed Wednesday, registered partnerships will be renamed “partnerships,” and same-sex couples will have all the same rights as married couples except with regard to adoption. Joint adoption will not be allowed, and partners will only be allowed to adopt each other’s biological children.

The compromise bill passed with 118 votes in favor, 33 against, and 23 abstentions. A proposal that would have allowed full joint adoption rights received 66 votes in favor to 54 against with 64 abstentions, but failed because it required a majority of lawmakers present, or 93 votes, to pass.  

Czech marriage equality advocacy group Jsme Fér says the result was disappointing.

“It is a sad day for thousands of families with children who have two moms or two dads and hundreds of thousands of LGBT people. It is a sad day for justice and equality in our country,” the group posted on X following the vote.

Same-sex marriage has been a live political issue in Czechia for the past several years. Polls have consistently shown wide support for same-sex marriage in the country, but support among lawmakers has long lagged public opinion.

Civil society had also mobilized to support same-sex marriage, with groups representing university students, artists, business groups, and large corporations joining campaigns urging legislators to support equal marriage. 

Ahead of the vote Wednesday, President Petr Pavel, who campaigned last year on a promise to support same-sex marriage, urged lawmakers to support equality.

“I recognize the principle of freedom and equality of every person from the point of view of law and see no reason to limit rights based on sexual orientation. I believe we are a tolerant society and we will rectify these rights as soon as possible. There is no change in this position of mine,” Pavel wrote in a post on X.

The compromise bill now heads to the senate, which will need to pass it before it can become law. At least one senator has said he will urge his colleagues to insist on full marriage equality.

“A watered-down version of same-sex marriage is heading to the Senate. I am sorry that the majority of MPs were against equal marriage for all. In the Senate, we still have a chance to fix it, I am ready to file a PN. I don’t want to continue the regime of two categories of people,” senator Lukáš Wagenknecht of the Pirate Party wrote on X.

But the bill may face an uphill battle in the Senate, which is slightly more conservative than the lower house. Last month, the senate rejected ratifying the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence, a European treaty meant to protect women, over concerns that the convention would expand LGBT rights. In fact, the treaty does not mention LGBT people, but anti-LGBT forces have been mobilizing against it in Eastern Europe. 

As in many countries in Eastern Europe, support for same-sex marriage has become a proxy for support of Western or pro-European Union values. Of the 27 EU countries, 16 allow same-sex marriage, the most recent being Greece and Estonia. A further 5 recognize some form of civil union, while a civil union bill has been proposed by Poland’s new government and another civil union bill is before the Lithuanian parliament.  

The next Czech parliamentary election is not expected until October 2025.

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Gabriel Attal becomes France’s first openly gay prime minister

Former education minister, 34, to succeed Élisabeth Borne

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French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal (Screen capture via Le Huffington Post YouTube)

PARIS — Gabriel Attal on Tuesday became France’s youngest and first openly gay prime minister.

President Emmanuel Macron appointed Attal to succeed Élisabeth Borne as he continues to reshuffle his government ahead of European elections that will take place in June. 

Attal, 34, was a government spokesperson before Macron appointed him the country’s education minister last year. Attal’s father is a Tunisian Jewish man.

“I know I can count on your energy and your commitment to implement the rearmament and regeneration project that I have announced,” said Macron on X.

Attal in his own X post thanked Macron for “your confidence.”

“I appreciate the honor given to me to be appointed prime minister,” said Attal.

“One goal: Keep control of our destiny, unleash French potential and rearm our country,” he added. “At work, with strength, humility and without taboos in the service of the French people.”  

LGBTQ+ Victory Institute President Annise Parker in a statement applauded Attal’s appointment.

“At a time when our rights are under attack across the globe, France is sending a powerful statement by appointing its first out LGBTQ+ prime minister — one of the highest-ranking positions held by an LGBTQ+ person anywhere in the world,” said Parker. “Democracies are stronger when LGBTQ+ people can participate at every level of government and Prime Minister Attal’s appointment will inspire even more LGBTQ+ people to consider public service.” 

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Marriage equality law takes effect in Estonia

Statute is ‘a very important message from the government’

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The Estonian Parliament (Photo by Griash Bruev/Bigstock)

TALLINN, Estonia — A law that extends marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples in Estonia took effect on Monday.

Lawmakers last July approved the marriage equality bill by a 55-34 vote margin. Estonia is the first Baltic country and the first former Soviet republic to allow same-sex couples to legally marry.

“It’s an important moment that shows Estonia is a part of northern Europe,” Baltic Pride Project Manager Keio Soomelt told the Guardian newspaper. “For the LGBT+ community, it is a very important message from the government that says, finally, we are as equal as other couples; that we are valuable and entitled to the same services and have the same options.”

The country’s civil partnership law has been in place since 2013.

The Guardian reported same-sex couples could begin to apply for marriage licenses on Monday. Authorities are expected to process the first applications by Feb. 2.

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German Cabinet approves ‘self-determination law’ for Trans, nonbinary people

Process to legally change name and gender on official documents would be simplified

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German Reichstag (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BERLIN — The German Cabinet on Wednesday approved a “self-determination law” that would simplify the process for Transgender or nonbinary people to legally change their name and gender in official documents.

The Associated Press notes Trans or nonbinary adults would only have to notify a registrar office that they plan to legally change their name and gender in official documents and wait three months before they do so. German law currently requires anyone who wants to change their gender on official documents to obtain testimony from two experts who are “sufficiently familiar with the particular problems of transsexualism” and a court ruling.

The AP reported the new law would allow children who are at least 14 to legally change their name and gender with parental or guardian approval. A teenager could ask a family court to overrule their parent or guardian if they deny their request. The AP notes a parent or guardian of anyone who is under 14 can go to a registry office and seek a legal name and gender change on their behalf.

German lawmakers need to approve the proposal before it takes effect.

“Imagine that you … simply want to live your life and you don’t wish anyone anything bad, and then you’re questioned about what your sexual fantasies are, what underwear you wear and similar things,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann told a German television, according to the AP. “Those affected have found this questioning very degrading. Now we simply want to make life a bit easier for a small group for which it has great significance.”

The Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group known by the acronym LSVD, in a statement urged lawmakers to approve the proposal.

“The Bundestag is now responsible for correcting the discriminatory regulations and exclusions,” said LSVD. “Self-determination must be guaranteed without ifs ands or buts; this must also apply to young people. The Self-Determination Law must guarantee real sexual self-determination — without heteronomy or distrust.”

Queer Commissioner Sven Lehmann in a tweet described Wednesday as “an important day for fundamental and human rights.” Jenny Wilken of the German Society for Trans Identity and Intersexuality, an advocacy group known by the acronym DGTI, described the proposal as a “first step towards self-determination,” but criticized the three month waiting period and several other provisions.

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Holocaust Memorial for LGBTQ+ victims vandalized in Berlin

The memorial to LGBTQ people persecuted under the Nazis was the target of an attempted arson attack, Berlin police say

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The "Memorial to Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism" is located at the edge of the German capital's famed Tiergarten park. (Photo by Michael K. Lavers)

BERLIN – The “Memorial to Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism” located at the edge of the German capital city’s famed Tiergarten Park was vandalized this past weekend according to a Polizei Berlin (Police Berlin) spokesperson.

Polizei Berlin said that a park security official observed a male suspect ‘papering’ the monument with slips of paper later found to contain biblical verses condemning homosexuality and then attempting to set the memorial ablaze by tossing a burning object at it. The suspect fled when confronted by the guard.

Polizei Berlin are investigating this incident and another attack against a memorial for victims of the Holocaust, the “Platform 17” memorial, inside the Berlin-Grunewald train station.

The Memorial to Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism, in the shape of a cube with a window insert where a video of a same-sex couple kissing can be seen was first erected in 2008.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that under the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933 to 1945, homosexual people were systematically repressed and persecuted, with some 50,000 being convicted on account of their sexuality.

Many thousands of them were deported to concentration camps and large numbers murdered there.

The second arson attack took place at the”Platform 17″ memorial, which honors the German Jewish people who were sent to their deaths during the Holocaust from the Grünewald train station.

In a statement issued Monday the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Association decried both incidents:

“We are shocked by the inflammatory energy of both acts and hope that the person responsible in both cases will be caught quickly.”

These past two weekend incidents are among a rising rate of hate related incidents in Germany, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), a German television broadcaster reported.

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior , the number of attacks against queer people increased in 2022. Last year, 1,005 cases were counted, including 227 violent crimes and 341 insults. That is about 15 percent more cases than in the previous year. The gay anti-violence project “Maneo” in Berlin also reports a slightly higher number of cases. According to Maneo, they will be “at a high level” overall in 2022.

The queer commissioner of the federal government assumes that the vast majority wants queer people to be able to live without fear and have equal rights. However, the results of a study from 2023 showed “that this consent is not stable and self-evident”.

Kerstin Thost, the spokesperson for Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Association told ZDF:

“We all have a responsibility now to work tirelessly to protect and treat everyone equally,” said Thost. In this situation, everyone should position themselves for human rights and democracy. Even those who are not affected by queer hostility themselves.”

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Far-right party falls short in Spanish elections

Vox vehemently opposes Transgender rights

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (Screen capture via Twitter video)

MADRID — A far-right party that vehemently opposes Transgender rights fell short in the Spanish elections that took place on Sunday.

Vox won 33 seats in the Spanish Parliament, which is 19 less than the 52 seats it won in the country’s last national elections that took place in 2019. Carla Toscano, a Vox MP who is a vocal opponent of Trans rights, is among those who lost their seats in the Congress of Deputies.

“An honor to have been able to defend in Congress over the last few years equality under the law for all Spaniards, the presumption of innocence, the family, life, justice, biological reality and above all what is good, beauty and the truth,” tweeted Toscano on Monday.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party on Sunday won 122 seats in Parliament, while Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s conservative Popular Party won 136 seats. 

The Popular Party and Vox won a combined 170 seats in Parliament. The Associated Press reported PSOE and other leftist parties that could support won a total of 172 seats. Neither bloc has the required 176 seats in order to have a majority in Parliament that would allow it to form a new government.

The AP notes Sánchez called Sunday’s vote after his party suffered loses in local and regional elections that took place in May. Another national election could take place later this year if lawmakers cannot form a new government.

“Spain has been crystal and resoundingly clear: The involutionist, backwards bloc that proposed the repeal of the progress made over these four years, has failed,” tweeted Sánchez. “There are many more of us who want to continue moving Spain forward.”

José María Núñez Blanco, president of Fundación Triángulo, a Spanish LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, on Saturday reiterated his concern over Vox during an interview with the Washington Blade in Mexico City.

Núñez, who was attending a conference the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute co-organized, noted Vox is already part of many of Spain’s regional governments. 

Parliament in February approved a bill that allows people who are at least 16-years-old to legally change their gender without medical intervention. 

Núñez noted Vox has backed efforts to deny legal recognition of Trans people. He further described the prospect the Popular Party creating a government with Vox as “crazy.”  

“Hopefully the government that comes out of tomorrow’s election continues to keep moving forward,” said Núñez.

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Openly gay US ambassador to Hungary marches in Budapest Pride march

Upwards of 35,000 people participated in annual event

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Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman participates in the annual Budapest Pride march in Budapest, Hungary, on July 15, 2023. (Screenshot courtesy of U.S. Embassy to Hungary's Twitter page)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Tens of thousands of people on Saturday participated in the annual Budapest Pride march that took place in the Hungarian capital.

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony and openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman are among the more than 35,000 people who participated in the event that took place amid fears right-wing protesters would disrupt it.

“Everything was great,” Budapest Pride President Viktoria Radvanyi told the Washington Blade after the march.

The U.S., along with 37 other countries, on July 14 issued a joint statement through their respective embassies in support of Budapest Pride.

“On the occasion of the 28th Budapest Pride Festival, we the undersigned embassies and cultural institutes express our full support for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, Transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) community in Hungary and their rights to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and freedom from violence,” reads the statement. “Respect for the rule of law and universal human rights are the foundations upon which democratic states are built. International human rights law is grounded on the broad premise that all individuals have the same rights and freedoms without discrimination.”

“We reject and condemn all acts of violence, hate speech, harassment, stigmatization and discrimination committed against individuals and communities on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics and support the fight against such acts,” it continues. “In this regard, we are concerned with legislation and political rhetoric, including in Hungary, that is in tension with principles of non-discrimination, international human rights law and human dignity and contributes to stigmatization of the LGBTQI+ community. We stress the need for leaders and governments, here and elsewhere, to show respect for and protect the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals and communities and to eliminate laws and policies that discriminate against them.”

Hungarian bookstore chain fined for violating anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law

The Pride march took effect against the backdrop of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government’s continued crackdown on LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

A law that bans legal recognition of Transgender and intersex people took effect in 2020. Hungarian MPs in 2020 effectively banned same-sex couples from adopting children and defined marriage in the country’s constitution as between a man and a woman.

An anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law took effect in 2021. The European Commission last July sued Hungary, which is a member of the European Union, over the country’s propaganda law.

The Budapest Metropolitan Government Office last week fined Lira Konyv, the country’s second-largest bookstore chain, 12 million forints ($36,056.74), for selling copies of British author Alice Oseman’s “Heartstopper.”

Pressman is among those who have sharply criticized Orbán over his government’s LGBTQ+ and intersex policies.

“No matter how many government-produced posters of ‘Brussels’ bombs may be emblazoned around town at any given moment, the reality is Hungary is not under ‘attack’ by outside forces, or vulnerable to a ‘liberal virus’ or ‘Western decadence,’ or cowering before George Soros, or at the mercy of omnipotent conspiratorial powers,” said Pressman on June 16 during a speech he gave at a Budapest Pride event. “No, the reality is something far simpler. The story of Hungary, including its movement for equality, is one being written not by foreigners, but by Hungarians.”

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Greek Prime Minister says he plans to legalize same-sex marriage

“Same-sex marriage will happen at some point and it’s part of our strategy.”  He added; “Greek society is much more ready and mature”

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Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaks with reporters at a meeting of the EU Commission last month. (Photo Credit: Government of Greece, Office of the Prime Minister)

ATHENS, Greece – Speaking with a reporter from Bloomberg Television earlier this week, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece, voiced his support to legalise same-sex marriage in this Balkan country during the new legislative session.

This echoed the prime minister’s remarks made shortly after the leader of the centre-right New Democracy party, was been sworn in as the prime minister of Greece for a second term. Addressing the Hellenic Parliament, Mitsotakis said:

“Today, we are in a new beginning. Citizens expect bold steps into a future they can’t wait. So together let’s start the journey towards optimistic Greece of 2030. With a vision, a plan and a lot of work.

So at the start of our new term, I will not promise miracles. Only perseverance and hard work. “Is it possible?” some had asked in 2019. “And yet, it is possible,” we answered them in the first four years. This is how we will continue in the coming years.

We want it, we can and we will.

We must be a government of all Greeks and all Greeks. At the beginning of the new legislative period, I want to express my unwavering will that the new administration fully fulfills the expectations of the citizens.”

Speaking with Bloomberg the prime minister noted: “Same-sex marriage will happen at some point and it’s part of our strategy.”  He added; “Greek society is much more ready and mature.”

Greece has recognised same-sex civil unions since 2015, this move by Mitsotakis would mean full equality for LGBTQ+ Greeks. The country has made significant advances for LGBTQ+ equality rights in a broader sense. ILGA-Europe’s annual ‘Rainbow Europe’ index, which ranks the best and worst places to be LGBTQ+ in Europe, placed Greece at 13 out of 49 countries – higher than places such as the UK, Ireland and Germany.

In May of 2022, the country passed a law that banned the use of so-called conversion therapy, a widely discredited practise that has been condemned by global medical groups. Previously in January of 2022. Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris and Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga issued a decree allowing men who have sex with other males to donate blood without restrictions.

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Estonia to become first Baltic country with marriage equality

Bill passed by 55-34 vote margin

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The Estonian Parliament in Tallinn, Estonia. (Photo by Griash Bruev/Bigstock)

TALLINN, Estonia — Lawmakers in Estonia on Tuesday approved a bill that will extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the country.

The marriage equality bill passed by a 55-34 vote margin. Estonia will become the first Baltic country and the first former Soviet republic to allow same-sex couples to legally marry.

“It’s official: Estonia has legalized marriage equality. We join other Nordic nations with this historic decision,” tweeted Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. “I’m proud of my country. We’re building a society where everyone’s rights are respected and people can love freely.”

Kallas in her tweet noted the bill will take effect in 2024.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Kallas.

“Congratulations to the people and government of Estonia on the passage of marriage equality legislation and the recognition of same-sex families,” tweeted Blinken. “In this historic moment, the United States is proud to stand with you in support of LGBTQI+ communities everywhere.”

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US ambassador to Hungary criticizes country’s anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown

David Pressman gave speech at Budapest Pride reception

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U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman speaks at a Budapest Pride event in Budapest, Hungary, on June 17, 2023. (Screen capture via U.S. Embassy in Hungary YouTube channel)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman on June 16 criticized the crackdown on LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in the European country.

Pressman, who is openly gay, in a speech he gave at a Budapest Pride reception noted he recently visited the Hungarian capital’s House of Terror Museum, which honors those persecuted during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Hungary and the post-World War II Communist governments that ruled the country until 1989. Pressman said one of “its most haunting elements is the depiction of government efforts to turn Hungarians into informants against other Hungarians, neighbors against neighbors, brothers against brothers and parents against their own children — families against themselves — and all in service of oppression … and of empowering the few at the expense of the many.”   

“It is impossible not to see echoes of this in your Parliament’s vote earlier this year to encourage neighbors to report to the authorities their gay neighbors raising children,” he added. “Turning neighbor on neighbor conjures a dark past of covert agents and informants, of fear and betrayal, in this country and this region that I do not need to recount. You have a museum for that. While this legislation did not become law, the fact it was ever considered, let alone supported by this government and passed by the legislature is chilling.”

Pressman noted “this proposal is not unique; others became and remain law.”

“Laws prohibiting ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’ were adopted by Russia in 2013,” he said. “These Russian laws found a new home here in Hungary eight years later — like a virus spreading — when the government adopted laws to forbid ‘educational programs aimed at the promotion of … homosexuality.’ And this law remains in force today.  And — in both Russia and in Hungary — the crackdowns on discourse related to gayness were preceded and accompanied by a closing of space for independent institutions and civil society.”

“History teaches us that when governments start discriminating against one group — whether for who they love or what they believe, their politics or their race, or the color of their skin — others are usually not far behind,” added Pressman. “It teaches us clearly what can happen when we fail to speak out and stand up to these laws and policies as soon as they infect our democracies.”

The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Budapest Pride President Viktoria Radvanyi told the Washington Blade in February after U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power met with her and other activists in the Hungarian capital that it is “impossible to change your gender legally in Hungary” because of a 2020 law that “banned legal gender recognition of transgender and intersex people.” 

The anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law that Pressman referenced in his speech took effect in 2021. 

Hungarian MPs in 2020 effectively banned same-sex couples from adopting children and defined marriage in the country’s constitution as between a man and a woman. Pressman and his partner of 22 years, who was in the room when he gave his speech, have twin sons. 

The European Commission last July sued Hungary, which is a member of the European Union, over the country’s propaganda law.

Pressman in his speech noted a high school student in the Hungarian countryside recently asked him what it is like to be an “out gay ambassador” in the country.

“About midway through my response, I paused. Not for lack of words, but because while I was speaking, I heard another voice in the back of my head. And that voice was trying to figure out whether by answering this high school student’s question was I also violating Hungarian law,” said Pressman. “Here I was, the representative of the president of the United States of America in Hungary, and I was questioning what I was allowed to say about myself, whether answering this earnest student’s question was I also violating Hungarian law.”

“This is the devious power of such laws,” he added. “It isn’t merely what a government may do to censor and restrict speech. It is the silence left behind because people are too afraid to speak up in the first place. It is that even earnest questions and truthful answers, really are off limits.” 

‘Hungary is not under attack by outside forces’

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government have repeatedly criticized Pressman since President Joe Biden nominated him to become ambassador in May 2022. Pressman, for his part, in his speech repeatedly criticized Orbán over his efforts to curtail LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Hungary.

“The truth is that there are Hungarian kids today struggling with who they are and who they love. They yearn to be proud of themselves, proud of their country, and proud to build their future within it,” said Pressman. “And it is also a truth that they are often told — through laws and statements of their political leaders and their media megaphones — that they have something to hide. That they should not be proud of themselves. That their country is not proud of them, and that they have no future in Hungary. That they are, somehow, not actually Hungarian, when they are. That they don’t exist when they do. That they are invented when they are made in God’s image. That their identity is the product of propaganda, when in fact it comes from their own beating Hungarian heart.”

Pressman described Hungarians as “fiercely independent, sophisticated and intelligent people, and rightfully proud of their rich culture and history.” 

“No matter how many government-produced posters of ‘Brussels’ bombs may be emblazoned around town at any given moment, the reality is Hungary is not under ‘attack’ by outside forces, or vulnerable to a ‘liberal virus’ or ‘Western decadence,’ or cowering before George Soros, or at the mercy of omnipotent conspiratorial powers,” he added. “No, the reality is something far simpler. The story of Hungary, including its movement for equality, is one being written not by foreigners, but by Hungarians. “

Pressman also predicted government-controlled newspapers would criticize him and incorrectly categorize his speech.

“While the news should report this truthful story factually. I can already read the headlines Minister (Antal) Rogán’s team is dictating for tomorrow’s papers.  No doubt I’ll be accused of staging provocations, of importing Western wokeness and foisting obscene values while meddling in Hungary’s domestic affairs,” he said. “What won’t happen is any of the government’s captured and controlled media outlets printing this speech in full.  What they’ll cut out — what they always cut out — is the fact that it is Hungarians who believe in these universal human rights, and it is Hungarians leading the fight for them.”  

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