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Gender war over a rainbow-coloured bench

July 15th, 2023

A left-wing commentator blames the government for what she sees as increasing intolerance towards LGBTQ people, while a right-wing columnist supports equal rights for sexual minorities but condemns what he calls brazen provocations.

A bench in a side street of Budapest’s 9th district was painted in the colours of the rainbow by Amnesty International Hungary, with the approval of the local left-liberal mayor. The following day it was re-painted in green and white, the colours of the local football team by right-wing ultras. It was then repainted brown by unknown persons, with a note warning against gender wars around a bench. It was then repainted in the colours of the rainbow once again, then in the national colours by the radical right-wing Our Homeland party. The ‘gender bench’ was then covered with polystyrene sheeting in a hint at the rule to seal books with homosexual or transsexual content in bookstores (see BudaPost, July 11). The bench was finally removed from the street for repair.

In Népszava, Orsolya Bálint complains about what she sees as the poor state of inclusiveness in Hungary, as passers-by made disapproving comments to journalists about Amnesty’s initiative. She believes the government’s policies are to blame for that. Football ultras and Nazis, she writes, have always been intolerant, but she would not expect the simple folk to say that those who painted the bench in the colours of the rainbow should do so around their own houses.

On Vasárnap, Kristóf Trombitás writes that the scandal was caused by what he describes as a provocation by Mayor Krisztina Baranyi. Struggles for equal rights are fully acceptable, he concedes, but warns against deliberate provocations. He approves of the resistance to the initiative because he sees it as a first step only, which would ultimately lead to regular visits by drag queens to kindergartens. Sliding down that ‘slippery slope’, he concludes, must be stopped while it is still possible.