- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

GAYS IN HUNGARY

The senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest eagerly enlisted in the defense of homosexuals in Hungary, where Saturday’s gay pride parade is once again the target of conservative critics who claim the annual celebration promotes sexual deviancy.

Jeffrey D. Levine, charge d’affaires since April, greeted a crowd at the opening of the Gay Pride Festival at the Muvesz Cinema in the capital Monday.

“It is an honor for me to be here tonight and to have this opportunity to express our support for Hungary’s gay and lesbian community,” he said, noting that the audience would be viewing the film “Stonewall,” which is about a series of violent demonstrations against police harassment of homosexuals in New York in 1969.

” ‘Stonewall’ is a fictionalized account of the Stonewall riots that gave birth to the gay activism in the United States,” he added.

Mr. Levine reminded the audience that President Obama has expressed his support for gay rights and that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy championed many issues on behalf of the gay community.

The diplomat also mentioned the embassy’s decision to join 12 other foreign missions in Budapest to support Hungarian gays after prominent conservatives denounced the Gay Pride Festival.

“It was privilege for the Embassy of the United States to join together with 12 other embassies in Budapest to publish a statement of support for the Budapest Pride Festival,” Mr. Levine said.

“You are not alone in your struggle for equal treatment and respect. Progress is being made every day. You should all be very proud that your voice is being heard and your efforts are bringing results.”

He also wished them success in Saturday’s parade and in their “continuing demand for full civil rights.”

The statement issued Friday was also endorsed by the embassies of Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.

Earlier Friday, Ilona Ekes, a member of the center-right opposition party, Fidesz, held a news conference, calling on police to ban the parade and vilifying homosexuality as a “mental injury.” She also called the march “provocative.”

The right-wing Jobbik Party, or Movement for a Better Hungary, has also denounced the event.

For the past two years, protesters including “skinheads” and ultranationalists, have hurled debris and Molotov cocktails at the parade, injuring dozens of marchers.

SPECTER OF RACISM

The chairmen of a congressional human rights panel this week condemned a Swedish newspaper that claimed Israeli soldiers harvested organs from dead Palestinians.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, the co-chairman, also called on European foreign ministers to join them in denouncing the article in the newspaper, Aftonbladet.

Mr. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, said the commission is a strong defender of press freedom.

“But with freedom of the press comes responsibility,” he added. “And when major press outlets fail to meet their responsibility and instead raise the specter of racism or anti-Semitism, then public officials are duty-bound to speak out and condemn such blatant falsehoods.”

Mr. Hastings, Florida Democrat, said the article perpetrated “age-old anti-Semitic imagery and attempts to place it in a modern context of worrisome hostility in Europe towards Jews and Israel.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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