The Szeged LGBT Community Group has achieved an enormous advocacy success: after a period of 18 months, LGBT groups can return to public community spaces.
18 months ago the state practically banned LMBTQ organizations from its community spaces.
New Generation Center Nonprofit Ltd. – a state-owned company run with EU money – operates community spaces in all nineteen counties of Hungary. In principle, these venues are open to anyone during opening hours, including civil society organizations.
In November 2017, however, the state-owned company decided – on the ground of maintaining political neutrality – that LMBT organizations could no longer organize community meetings or community programs in their community spaces. The decision made at higher levels hit the Szeged LGBT Community Group especially hard because by that time they had established good relations with the leaders of the Szeged community space and regularly organized their programs there.
Earlier on the New Generation Community Spaces in Szeged and Kecskemét had joined the “Safe Space” campaign by putting out a rainbow-colored sticker, which was scraped off (presumably also by superior order) in both cities a few months later, the day after the ban was instituted.
The reference to political neutrality sounded particularly strange in the light of the fact that Géza Vincze, vice president of Fidelitas, currently serves as the head of the company. At the same time, in the framework of their “It’s About You!” program series young people typically only get a chance to talk to Fidesz-KDNP politicians about the issues affecting them.
“The coordinator in Szeged called us crying and saying that she really did not agree with this, but we could no longer organize our programs there,” recalled Anna Kiss and Ákos Tari, two members of the Szeged LGBT Community Group. “We tried for a few months to come back without conflict, but they were completely reluctant to let us do so,” they added.
With the resolution of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights in their hand, the Szeged LGBT Community Group initiated a procedure with the Equal Treatment Authority, which the center appealed against. However, a year after they were banned, the Metropolitan Court of Budapest also ruled in their favor. The group represented itself before the Equal Treatment Authority, with a part of the membership attending the hearing. At the hearing by the Metropolitan Court, the group was represented by the Háttér Society.
Subsequently, they protested with signs in front of the community space in Szeged and regularly commented on the matter in the media. They also launched a petition on SzabadaHang so that the public company would not play for time by its appeals and would immediately let stakeholders back to community spaces around the country.
They encouraged all other LMBTQ groups to stand out in a similar way, as the ban was valid throughout the country: neither in Szeged, nor in Kecskemét, nor in the capital, nor in the other sixteen counties was it possible for LGBT groups to use public community spaces.
The long struggle finally bore fruit: after an 18-month “break”, in early March the group was again able to gather in the community space in Szeged to discuss their current affairs.