Hungary’s authoritarian leader won’t attend soccer game against Germany amid spat over his anti-LGBTQ law

FILE PHOTO: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban holds a joint news conference with Slovakia's Prime Minister Igor Matovic (not pictured) in Budapest, Hungary, June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
Hungary’s PM Orban and Slovakia’s PM Matovic hold joint news conference in Budapest Reuters
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban canceled a trip to Munich for a Germany-Hungary soccer game.
  • Orban is facing heavy criticism over an anti-LGBTQ law recently passed in Hungary.
  • German soccer clubs plan to illuminate their stadiums with rainbow colors during the game.
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Hungary’s authoritarian leader Viktor Orban canceled a trip to Munich for the Euro 2020 soccer match between Hungary and Germany on Wednesday, German news agency dpa reported, amid backlash over an anti-LGBTQ law that human rights groups have decried as homophobic.

The Hungarian prime minister scrapped plans to travel to Germany as outcry grew after the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) – Europe’s soccer governing body – denied Munich’s request to illuminate its stadium with rainbow colors during the match with Hungary as a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community. UEFA justified the move by contending illuminating the stadium in those colors would be too political.

“UEFA, through its statutes, is a politically and religiously neutral organisation. Given the political context of this specific request – a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament – UEFA must decline this request,” UEFA said in a statement.

The UEFA decision sparked outrage across Germany, and soccer clubs in Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Wolfsburg, and Augsburg announced plans to illuminate their stadiums with rainbow colors during the game on Wednesday, per NPR News.

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Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter condemned UEFA over the decision, calling it “shameful.” Reiter said a wind turbine close to the stadium would be illuminated instead.

Orban on Wednesday urged German politicians to accept UEFA’s decision.

“Whether the Munich football stadium or another European stadium is lit in rainbow colors is not a state decision,” Orban told dpa.

The anti-LGBTQ law at the heart of these tensions, which passed in the Hungarian parliament last week, bans sharing any content with minors that portrays or is perceived as promoting homosexuality or sex reassignment. Critics say the law conflates homosexuality with pedophilia.

“Initially designed to strengthen legal protections against pedophilia and sexual crimes against children, last minute modifications … transformed the bill into a tool to persecute and stigmatize LGBT people, posing a risk to their safety and well-being and severely curtailing free speech,” according to Human Rights Watch. “When it enters into effect, children will not be able to access inclusive sexuality education, and accurate public information on LGBT issues will be a thing of the past.”

The law has been denounced by 17 EU governments, including Germany. Hungary is also part of the EU.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers, “I consider this law to be wrong and incompatible with my understanding of politics,” the Associated Press reported.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bill is a “shame.”

“This bill clearly discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation,” von der Leyen added. “It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union: human dignity, equality and respect for human rights.”