Well, if it resembles the "happy occasions" of the last two years it will be anything but a "gay" event. It is interesting that while in the past the marches went off without a hitch the situation drastically changed in 2007 and 2008. I assume that this sudden turn in public behavior is not caused by some huge transformation of attitudes toward homosexuality but rather is the result of an acceptance of violent behavior by certain groups. As long as outright vandalism is explained by the opposition party as "understandable" because of the criminal behavior of the government and the police, these groups believe that they can do practically anything because they are the defenders of public morality.
Meanwhile Hungary's reputation is sinking deeper and deeper with the effective assistance of the Christian Democrats and, with some qualifications, of Fidesz. Fidesz has perfected the fine art of double talk. The most accomplished master of the normal form of double talk–using words with ambivalent meanings–is Viktor Orbán himself. But there is another kind of double talk. A Fidesz parliamentary member or someone high in the party says something that later is disavowed. This time around a Fidesz parliamentary member, Ilona Ékes, who happens to be a member of the parliamentary committee on human rights, asked the police chief of Budapest to forbid the Gay Pride Parade because this march is "such as to cause fear in people" and because "it may endanger the healthy development of minors." She gave a press conference during which she expanded on the theme: she called the march "provocative" and instead suggested "a professional dialogue" about the nature of homosexuality. Ms Ékes, who was a kindergarten teacher before she became a politician, has her own opinion: "it is a mental defect."
We know enough about party discipline within Fidesz that we must suspect that Ms Ékes didn't act without the blessing of the party. Yet Fidesz immediately announced that Ilona Ékes spoke only as a private person and was in no way expressing the party's opinion on the subject. I suspect that with the utterance of this "private opinion" Fidesz wanted to initiate a public discourse that will call attention to the event and heighten opposition to it in certain circles. The faithful ally, Zsolt Semjén's Christian Democratic Party, immediately joined the "dialogue." Zsuzsa Halász, the party's spokesman, outlined what the Christian Democrats expect from the participants–decent behavior. They are also worried about the youth, but otherwise they are not questioning the rights of the gays and lesbians to demonstrate. Soon enough the other side spoke up. István Nyakó, spokesman of MSZP, demanded the resignation of Ilona Ékes from the committee on human rights. Of course, nothing of the sort will happen but it sounds good. Not only the parties but media personalities joined in. One of my least favorite, Henrik Havas, opined that it would be best not to hold the march. Moreover, all his gay friends are staying home.
Within a few days the atmosphere became sufficiently tense that a statement was released by the embassies of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The statement read in part: "we express our support for and solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Hungary. We support the right of these communities to use this traditional occasion to march together peacefully and lawfully, in order to epxress their desire to end the silence surrounding the specific issues that affect them." The statement ended with these words: "Our governments' policies in this area are in accordance with the principles set out in the Joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity delivered at the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December, 2008." To find among these thirteen the Czech Republic and Slovenia is really a slap in the face and shows how low Hungary has sunk even in the region. Today Mátyás Eörsi (SZDSZ) expressed his gratitude for the support of these countries. In addition Whoopi Goldberg, who knows and loves Hungary dearly ever since she spent some time there while filming and who jokingly said that she wouldn't mind being the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, was so worried about the Hungarian situation that she sent a message to Hungary via YouTube. Apparently, the video was reposted on an internet paper where it received a spate of hideous, degrading comments. I simply don't understand how Hungarian "moderators" allow such comments to appear. I guess they have a rather peculiar interpretation of freedom of speech.
As for Hungarian society's attitude toward homosexuality, the think tank Political Capital concluded that Hungary is a "moderately prejudiced country in the region." The majority view is that gays can lead their own lives as long as they are not visible. Thus, the number of gay people in the closet is very high in the country. In Hungary only 6% of the people claim that they know someone who is gay. In the Czech Republic that number is exactly double. Otherwise, according to one international survey 42% of Hungarians think that "one ought to give gays the opportunity to lead their own lives"; 25% would deny that right. Yet tomorrow not only will Andrássy Street be closed but so will the side streets. There will be hundreds of police present. I am just wondering who will be able to view the parade if the whole area is hermetically sealed. Mind you, I saw an ad on the web site of TV2 announcing that the Gay Pride Parade will be broadcast live. It will be only a click away! And what will happen to the children?