Embassies urge Hungary to protect LGBT rights ahead of Pride march

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The embassies of the United States, Germany and 36 other countries urged Hungary's government to protect the rights of LGBT people and scrap laws that discriminate against them in a statement ahead of Budapest's Pride march on Saturday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government promotes a strongly Christian-conservative agenda and passed a law in 2021 banning the "display and promotion of homosexuality" among under-18s, despite criticism from rights groups and the European Union.

In a joint statement, the embassies and about 10 cultural institutions including the British Council, the Estonian Institute and Institut Français said they supported Saturday's event which is expected to draw thousands to downtown Budapest.

"We are concerned with legislation and political rhetoric, including in Hungary, that is in tension with principles of non-discrimination, international human rights law and human dignity, and contributes to stigmatization of the LGBTQI+ community," the statement read.

"We stress the need for leaders and governments, here and elsewhere, to show respect for and protect the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals and communities, and to eliminate laws and policies that discriminate against them," it added.

The European Commission referred EU member Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the 2021 law which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called a "disgrace".

Orban's government, in power since 2010, has said the legislation is meant to protect children and does not target the LGBT community.

A Hungarian government office fined one of the country's largest booksellers on Thursday for selling the British LGBT-themed graphic novel "Heartstopper" without closed wrapping, saying it breached the legislation.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Andrew Heavens)