Neo-Nazis attack Budapest Pride
Neo-Nazis attack Budapest Pride
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer On Saturday, July 5, approximately 500 neo-Nazis attacked the Pride Parade in Budapest, Hungary, with eggs, rocks, and Molotov cocktails. Although the 1,500 Pride marchers were able to continue to the end of the mile-long parade route, 14 people were reportedly hospitalized and 58 were arrested. The incident highlights the challenges still faced by the LGBT movement in Europe in spite of recent advances.

Several prominent political leaders attending the parade were roughed up, including openly Gay former State Secretary Gábor Szetey, European Parliament member and human rights activist Katalin Lévai, and Hungarian Parliament member Gábor Horn. None were seriously injured. Eight police officers and six civilians were taken to the hospital, and 10 to 15 people were treated by medics at the scene and released.

While Budapest police intervened to protect the march, driving back the neo-Nazis with tear gas and eventually deploying water cannons, the chief of police had previously tried to ban the Pride Parade on the grounds that it would disrupt traffic in the center of the city. Chief of Police Gabor Toth reversed himself and granted permits for the parade only under international pressure from LGBT activists and members of the European Union Parliament. At the same time, he also issued permits for right-wing counter-demonstrations along the same route as the Pride Parade.

It was the most extreme elements of the counter-demonstrators who attacked the Pride marchers, not just once, but four times along the parade route. In the week before the Pride Parade two Gay-owned businesses, a bar and a sauna, were bombed, resulting in one injury. The 2007 Budapest Pride Parade was also attacked by neo-Nazi groups.

Hungarian neo-Nazi parties typically display the symbols and employ the rhetoric of the pro-Hitler Arrow Cross Party that ruled Hungary from 1941 until 1945. Attacks on Hungary's LGBT community have also been accompanied by similar attacks on Jewish and Roma (Gypsy) citizens. While Hungarian neo-Nazi groups are still considered political fringe elements, the concern is that they are part of a growing movement in the formerly Communist countries of Eastern Europe. Pride events in Russia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic have been attacked by rightists this year.

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány denounced the attacks, calling for a nationwide anti-extremism rally on September 6. The prime minister said that he has "had enough," and "if things continue as they do, people will be afraid to go out into the streets." He added that this is not a Gay, Jewish or Roma issue, but one that affects all Hungarian citizens. Hungary's justice minister has been directed to prepare a full report on the incident.

Budapest was the first city in the former Communist bloc to hold a Gay Pride Parade after the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989, and until 2007 the Parade was held without incident. Typically it draws from 1,000 to 2,000 participants. Hungary was the host country of Mr. Gay Europe 2007 contest and will host the Eurogames in 2011. Anti-discrimination laws including sexual orientation have been on the books in Hungary since 1997. In 2000, Hungary's Constitutional Court (the equivalent of the US Supreme Court) recognized that the constitutional ban on discrimination includes sexual orientation. The 2003 Act on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities forbids discrimination based on factors that include sexual orientation and sexual identity in employment, education, housing, health, and access to goods and services.

Hungary joined the European Union in 2004, and like the other EU countries Hungary has adopted the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Article 21.1 of the Charter prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (among other characteristics).

On December 17, 2007 the Hungarian Parliament adopted a registered partnership bill creating the Hungarian equivalent of civil unions in the US. Starting from January 1, 2009 same-sex couples can enter into registered partnership. The law gives the same rights to registered partners as to married spouses except for adoption. Four EU countries have enacted marriage equality (Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain), 10 others including Hungary have established civil unions for same-sex couples, and three recognize same-sex common law marriages.