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Is the ESC too 'gay' for Hungary?

Silke Wünsch db
November 29, 2019

Hungary has pulled out of the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest that will take place in Rotterdam. No reason was given, but many people are speculating that the decision is related to the government's homophobic stance.

Conchita Wurst ESC 2014
Conchita Wurst won the 2014 ESCImage: EBU

The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is a decidedly colorful, gaudy music festival — and it is also gay. It glitters. Beautiful people use grand gestures on pompous stage sets, and love is in the air. The ESC events attract people of all sexual orientations; the competition is simply a cheerful party for people from many different countries who celebrate music and themselves for a few days.

Colorfully dressed fans at the ESC 2015 in Austria
Fans like to dress up in fancy costumesImage: picture-alliance/EPA/H. Fohringer

Two weeks ago, Hungary canceled its participation in the 2020 contest, as did Montenegro. Both countries have a longstanding tradition of participating in the event. Hungary was actually quite successful — the country participated 19 times, and had five candidates making it among the top 10. So why the cancellation?

Read more: Opinion: Homosexuality is not a disease

No reason was given, but the British daily The Guardian and the Hungarian index.hu website quoted an employee of Hungary's MTVA state broadcaster who said the withdrawal had something to do with the ESC's proximity to the LGBTQ+ scene.

MTVA organizes the Hungarian ESC preliminary decision every year. Earlier this year, a TV station close to the far-right government described the ESC as a "homosexual armada," claiming it was important for Hungary's "mental health" to pull out of the competition.

Eurovision Song Contest 2018 | AWS, Ungarn
The Hungarian metal band SWS made it to the finals at the 2018 ESCImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen

Restrictive policies on homosexuality

On Twitter, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's spokesman Zoltan Kovacs rejected rumors of homophobia, calling the reports "fake news," but he gave no official reason for Hungary's withdrawal.

Hungary has been pursuing restrictive policies on homosexuality. Gay and lesbian rights are severely restricted, and same-sex marriage is banned in Hungary. A lawmaker recently compared the adoption right for homosexual couples to pedophilia.

A Hungarian TV commentator is quoted as saying the ESC destroys public taste when screaming transvestites and bearded women participate. He was apparently referring to bearded Drag Queen Conchita Wurst Conchita Wurst, who won the ESC in 2014 and wanted to send a message of tolerance toward homosexuals.

The 2020 Eurovision Song Contest takes place in May in the Dutch city of Rotterdam,and 41 countries are scheduled to participate.

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