Hungary: In Europe, Pride is a key political barometer. Budapest’s was safe, at times even joyful.

When Pride marchers had filled Elizabeth Bridge, the people walking in the front released hundreds of multicolored balloons, and the thousands of participants let out a happy cheer. I realized it was the first such cheer I had heard since the march began two hours earlier. “You see, it's a hybrid,” said Katalin Orban, a media studies professor who marched with her partner, Zsofia Ban, a prominent Hungarian fiction writer. “It's not like Moscow or Kiev, but it's not like Vienna, either—it's not a celebration.”

Something odd has happened in Europe: The continent's political dividing line seems to have become defined by the way the Pride march proceeds there—if it proceeds at all. In Moscow, an attempt to stage Pride in May was punished with beatings and jailings. In Kiev, Ukraine, in June, the police failed to adequately protect marchers, some of whom were beaten. Later in June, police used water canons to disperse the Pride march in Istanbul, Turkey.

Hungarian pride organizers have worked to normalize the event by attracting corporations, straight allies, and gay celebrities. Unlike last year, marchers did not walk through a tunnel of police in riot gear. But it also meant that spectators were too far away to see anything. This march was a statement, not a spectacle. The gathering place, in front of the opera house, stank of excrement. Shit had apparently been strewn along the bottoms of the trees that line Andrassy Street. This was a milder form of the tactics of Moscow's self-proclaimed Orthodox activists, who consistently throw human waste at LGBTQ demonstrators. Read More