I received an email this week from my dear friends Jeff Gibson and Neal Ward from San Francisco. They were vacationing in Hungary and were fortunate enough to have breakfast with Szetey Gabor, an openly gay member of the Hungarian Parliament. In addition, he has been appointed by Prime Minister Gyurcsany to be Senior State Secretary for Human Resources Development. This makes him one of the highest ranking gay officials in Eastern Europe.
Gabor just came out in July of this year.
As we watch events unfold for the LGBT community in places such as Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, it is important to remember the tough battles they face. Gay Pride parades have been attacked and, with the support of Orthodox and Catholic churches, nationalists have inflamed public opinion against the LGBT community.
Gibson and Ward were extremely impressed with this charismatic politician, who is clearly a pioneer in the LGBT political movement in Europe. It is interesting that Szetey Gabor lived in New York City in the late 1990s. You can't help but wonder if the powerful struggle for equal rights here in America impacted his choice to be an openly gay activist in Hungary.
Szetey publicly declared he was gay at the opening night of the Budapest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival during Pride. His coming out speech could have been right from Bernard Malamud's The Fixer:
"When we can be proud of being Hungarian, Romanian, Jewish, Catholic, Gay or Straight... If we can be proud of our differences, we will be proud of our similarities. I believe in God. And I believe that all men and women have the right to love and be loved. Everywhere. Love has no party preference. Neither does happiness or choosing a partner. So: I am Gábor Szetey. I am European, and Hungarian. I believe in God, love, freedom, and equality. I am the Human Resources Secretary of State of the Government of the Republic of Hungary. Economist and HR director. Partner, friend, sometimes rival. And I am gay."
He later participated in the LGBT Pride parade, which was attacked by right wing nationalist thugs. Gabor is courageously pioneering a new way for Eastern Europeans in LGBT rights. Thanks to Gibson and Ward to bringing him to my attention.