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social sciences

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The more political Szivárvány ("Rainbow") Coalition formed in 1994 but not without difficulty. The state refused to grant official registration to the group on two grounds. One was that the full name included the Hungarian word for "gay," meleg, which also means "warm" and has a positive connotation. Authorities claimed that this might "mislead" people, young people in particular. They also noted that the group set no minimum age requirement.

Szivárvány sued for discrimination since there were other groups without minimum age limits, but the Constitutional Court ruled that in their case it would violate Paragraph 199 and would also expose young people to a risk that threatened "the full development of their personality," a very curious argument indeed.

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The Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians in Hungary has existed since 1995. One of their first projects was to reach out to glbtq people outside Budapest with another telephone help-line. They also instituted an AIDS prevention project, established an archive, and became the principal organizers of Hungary's annual glbtq pride and film festivals. In May 2000, in conjunction with the Open Society Institute, they opened the Gay Legal Aid Service.

Another group concerned with legal issues is the Habeas Corpus Working Party, formed in 1996 by a small number of Szivárvány members who, in the words of Bea Sándor, "refused finite and central sexual identities." She describes the membership as "mostly young intellectuals." In addition to filing petitions with the Constitutional Court, the group sponsors public debates and provides a legal aid service.

Women are active in these organizations but also have a specifically lesbian association, Labrisz, founded in 1999. The group is devoted to combating both sexism and and to establishing public space for lesbians. They also run a monthly discussion group and work on educational projects. Members participate in the annual glbtq festivities.

Relationships among the various glbtq groups are generally good. In 2001 several came together to form Szivárvány Misszió Alapítvány ("Rainbow Mission Foundation"), which now takes charge of organizing the Pride events.

Homophobic Realities

Although glbtq Hungarians have achieved significant legal gains, full equality is not an everyday reality in the culturally conservative nation. In a 2001 report Sándor recounted the experiences of a number of gay men and lesbians who had lost their jobs when their sexual orientation became known. Sándor noted that few gay men and lesbians were out to coworkers and that victims of discrimination often decided against pursuing the matter in court. One of the people she interviewed had filed a lawsuit but was still awaiting a ruling almost three years later.

Sándor also cited examples of gay-bashing, particularly in cruising spots but in other areas as well. She noted that victims of such attacks had only recently begun reporting them and were often met with indifference by the police. With increasing pressure from glbtq rights groups and the scrutiny of European human rights organizations the situation is gradually improving.

Social Scene

Hungary does not boast much of a gay scene beyond Budapest, but a few other cities have a gay and lesbian or mixed bar or dance club. Budapest has about half a dozen bars and clubs (some for men only), a similar number of glbtq-friendly cafés, and numerous saunas and baths, including one that is exclusively gay. As is frequently the case elsewhere, lesbians are less visible than gay men and have no dedicated social space of their own.

Since 1996 Budapest has been home to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Transgender Cultural and Film Festival, held annually in July and highlighted by a parade. Thousands of people now take part in the celebrations.

In recent years the festivities have featured appearances by a few sympathetic politicians. In 2003 Budapest Mayor Gábor Demsky declared the city a "beacon of tolerance and fraternity," but he was probably overstating the case. Indeed, police were needed to protect parade participants from right-wing extremists who had threatened violence. In addition, not all marchers felt confident about their civil rights. One man told a reporter that he could not remove his mask for fear of being recognized by his boss and fired, as had happened to some colleagues of his the previous year.

Life Partnership Law

In 2009, the Hungarian parliament adopted a "life partnership" law, which is similar to other European registered partnership laws. It confers most of the legal rights of marriage on same-sex couples, including tax, employment, immigration, and inheritance benefits. But it forbids same-sex couples from adopting children and prohibits a same-sex spouse from taking his or her partner's name.


Despite recent improvements in the law and the growing visibility and activism of glbtq Hungarians, it is clear that intolerant attitudes are still prevalent and that much more needs to be done to guarantee the human rights of all citizens in Hungary. Nevertheless, dedicated members of the glbtq community and their allies have made important first steps.

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  Budapest

The capital and largest city of Hungary, Budapest is also the hub of Hungarian gay and lesbian life and the center of the country's glbtq political rights movement.

social sciences >> Overview:  Ireland

Given the dominance of the Roman Catholic church on its culture, Ireland was a country in the closet until relatively recent times.

social sciences >> Overview:  Parades and Marches

Both parades and marches have served to render the glbtq community visible; whereas marches typically attempt to effect political change, parades and pride events affirm identity and community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

social sciences >> European Commission on Human Rights / European Court of Human Rights

The European Commission on Human Rights was the first international human rights organization to condemn homophobia; the European Court of Human Rights, which replaced the Commission, has also helped enforce glbtq rights.


"Budapest." Gay Guide.

Conrath, Alan Brady. "A Tale of Two Eastern European Cities." The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 10 (November-December 2003): 40.

Fallon, Steve. Budapest. Melbourne: Lonely Planet Publications, 2003.

"Hungarian Constitutional Court Repeals Anti Gay/Lesbian Legislation." International Lesbian and Gay Association-Europe. Euro-Letter 101 (September 2002).

"Hungary Drops Discriminatory Consent Law." The Advocate (September 5, 2002).

Maslin, Janet. "'Another,' Hungarian." New York Times (September 25, 1982): 13.

"Pride & Protests Return to Budapest." Data Lounge (July 11, 2003).

Sándor, Bea. Report on Discrimination against Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals in Hungary. Budapest Center for Policy Studies (2001).

Soukop, Jean Jacques. "Hungary: Out(side) in Budapest." The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review 6 (January 31, 1999): 38.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Hungary  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated July 7, 2009  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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