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

David Pressman gave speech at Budapest Pride reception



U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman speaks at a Budapest Pride event in Budapest, Hungary, on June 16, 2023. (Screen capture via U.S. Embassy in Hungary YouTube channel)

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.”  


European Union

Hungarian magazine places gay married couple with their baby on cover

Elle Hungary defended decision



Elle Hungary has featured a gay marriedcouple and their daughter on its cover. (Photo courtesy of Elle Hungary)

The September issue of fashion and culture magazine Elle Hungary features a prominent gay married couple with their infant child on the cover. 

While seemingly innocuous, the photograph of Hungarian restaurateur Hubert Hlatky Schlichter and his neurosurgeon husband Laszlo Szegedi kissing their daughter Hannabel is in open defiance of the homophobic government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

On June 15, 2021, a Hungarian law purportedly aiming at taking stricter action against pedophile offenders and amending certain laws to protect children was adopted. Some of the new provisions target and limit the access of minors to content and advertisements that “promotes or portrays” the so-called “divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality.”

Orbán has been criticised by international human rights groups as discriminating against LGBTQ people with this law which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called a “disgrace.”

Orbán, who has publicly proclaimed that he is a “defender of traditional family Catholic values,” has been criticized by international human rights groups as discriminating against LGBTQ people.

Publishing the cover on its Instagram account Monday, Elle Hungary stated that the magazine’s intention was to “contribute to the acceptance of rainbow families” and help the publication to “campaign all over the country for love and all forms of family.”

(Translated from Hungarian):

Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, caring and supportive environment, and no one can prevent that because of their parents’ gender identity or sexual orientation.

On the cover of our latest issue, we present a Hungarian rainbow family: we can get to know the story of their becoming a family, their honest and loving everyday life with their little girl, Hannabell. Hubert Hlatky-Schlichter and Dr. László Szegedi confess honestly about the difficulties and prejudices they had to face as a gay couple at home and how fate-changing the arrival of their daughter was for them. With their story, we want to send a message to everyone who has felt that they or their loved ones have been attacked more recently: You are not alone, and there is a positive scenario!

We hope that with our current issue, even if on a small scale, we contribute to the acceptance of rainbow families, and manage to give inspiration, encouragement and support to the many thousands of readers who share the same values with us. The slogan of our cover page sums up our message beautifully: Born From Love, because families, regardless of their structure, are rooted in deep, unconditional love. Join the conversation by using the hashtag #BornFromLove to campaign for all forms of love and family across the country!

In the featured article written by Elle Hungary Editor-in-Chief Vivien Mádai that accompanies the cover, the couple discussed the division of parental roles, and candidly about discrimination they’ve faced in Hungary, particularly as they welcomed their infant daughter into the world.

PinkNewsUK noted that while a same-sex couple featured on a British or U.S.-based magazine would seem innocuous, in Hungary, it marks a landmark step for positive queer representation in the media.

On Instagram, the magazine’s comment section has been flooded with people celebrating the cover.

This past April, Hungarian President Katalin Novak vetoed a legislation that included a provision for citizens to anonymously report on same-sex couples who are raising children. In a rare departure from the policies of Orbán whom she generally supports, Novak returned the bill to Parliament telling lawmakers to strike that provision.

The country’s constitution states that the institution of marriage is “between one man and one woman,” and notes that “the mother is a woman, the father a man.”

This law’s passage and Novak’s veto came after the country’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling in February that will continue to block new applications from transgender people for legal gender recognition. The judgment effectively creates two categories of trans people in Hungary: those who applied early enough to pursue gender recognition and those who did not.

A spokesperson for the German government told the media earlier this year that Germany and France joined with other EU member states in the European Commission lawsuit over a Hungarian law which discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The move by Elle to feature the gay couple on its cover follows a July incident where Hungary’s second-largest bookstore chain was fined for violating the nation’s 2021 law that limits the access of minors to books, media content and advertisements that “promotes or portrays” the so-called “divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality.”

The chain was fined for selling copies of British author Alice Oseman’s LGBTQ graphic novel series “Heartstopper,” a global phenomena due to the runaway hit Netflix show based on her books in the series.

The Budapest Metropolitan Government Office fined Lira Konyv bookstore chain for placing the book series in its youth literature section, and for failing to place it in wrapped plastic packaging as required by the 2021 law.

The bookstore chain was fined 12 million forints ($33171.59.)

The French daily afternoon newspaper Le Monde reported that as a result, bookshops have decided that books deemed “sensitive” must be wrapped in plastic or moved them to the adult section, if they have not decided to refrain from selling them altogether.

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European Union

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

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



(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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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European Union

Memorial to LGBTQ Holocaust victims vandalized in Berlin

Anti-queer attacks on the rise in Germany



The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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 Berlin Police spokesperson.

The Berlin Police 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.

Berlin Police are investigating this incident and another attack against a memorial for victims of the Holocaust, the “Platform 17” memorial, inside the Berlin-Grünewald 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 reported that under the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933-1945, gay 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 anti-LGBTQ sentiments in Germany, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, a German television station, 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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