BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Several hundred demonstrators gathered in Hungary’s capital Wednesday urging the country’s president to nullify a newly adopted law that human rights groups say stigmatizes LGBT people and limits their rights.
The demonstration at the entrance of the Sandor Palace in Budapest — the residence and office of President Janos Ader, who is widely expected to sign the law into effect — came a day after the controversial legislation was passed by Hungary’s parliament. Sponsored by the ruling Fidesz party, it was ostensibly aimed at fighting pedophilia, but included amendments that prohibit the display or promotion of homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors.
Right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government says the law, which includes the introduction of a searchable registry of convicted pedophiles, is necessary to protect children.
Demonstrators gathered handwritten and printed messages into a box addressed to Ader in an effort to dissuade him from ratifying the law. They contained personal stories of helpful education, support and acceptance received by their LGBT authors — validation organizers say will be illegal under the new legislation which prohibits the portrayal of homosexuality in school sex education programs, films, advertisements and other media materials aimed at anyone under 18.
Rights groups have blasted the new law, arguing it conflates homosexuality with pedophilia in an attempt to stigmatize sexual minorities. David Vig, director of rights group Amnesty International Hungary, which co-sponsored Wednesday’s demonstration, said the measures further marginalize Hungary’s LGBT community.
“What this law and discourse does is mixing up crimes against children with (the) consensual love of adults,” Vig told the Associated Press.
Lilla Ivanics, a member of Hungary’s LGBT community, attended Wednesday’s demonstration.
“No good can come from hiding something, from reinforcing the idea that our way of life is wrong. Nothing good comes from not being understood by ourselves or others,” Ivanics said.
On Monday, thousands of LGBT activists and others held another protest in Budapestin an unsuccessful effort to stop Fidesz’s strong parliamentary majority from passing the law. Members of the right-wing Jobbik party also supported the legislation, while all other opposition parties boycotted Tuesday’s vote.
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs wrote on his blog Wednesday that educating children about sexual orientation should be the “sole right of parents.”
“Yes, we think this is necessary to protect children in their sexual development. We also believe that certain content should only be introduced at a suitable age in the interest of children’s healthy psychological and mental development,” Kovacs wrote.
Yet Vig, of Amnesty International Hungary, said the law will deprive young people of important education on sexuality, which could lead to mental health problems and suggest to young LGBT people that their sexual orientation is a crime.
“We don’t want to live in a society where an entire community is silenced or eradicated from public discourse,” he said.