Formula 1 champions Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have criticised the nationwide referendum in Hungary on what’s widely seen as anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, on the eve of the Budapest F1 weekend.
Earlier this month, far-right prime minister Viktor Orban announced that the country will hold a referendum on what it describes as “child protection” issues.
The new legislation makes it an offence to “promote or portray” homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors.
The bill also constrains the sexual education that is taught in school to organisations that are specifically approved by the government.
It follows previous anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the past year including one that banned the depiction of homosexuality in media to anyone under the age of 18 and a ban on adoption for same-sex couples.
Critics say the government is conflating homosexuality with paedophilia with measures such as bringing in tougher sentences for paedophiles in the same batch of legislation that includes the anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
Defending seven-time champion Hamilton took to Instagram on the Thursday before the race to brand the laws as “unacceptable” and cowardly”.
“To all in this beautiful country, Hungary,” his statement began.
“Ahead of the grand prix this weekend, I want to share my support for those affected by the government’s anti-LGBTQ+ law.
“It is unacceptable, cowardly and misguiding for those in power to suggest such a law.
“Everyone deserves to have the freedom to be themselves, no matter who they love or how they identify.”
— The Race (@wearetherace) July 29, 2021
Hamilton went onto to urge Hungarians to vote in the referendum – announced days before Budapest Pride – to “protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community”.
It comes in the same week that the Mercedes driver launched a new charitable foundation to support young people from underrepresented groups in the UK and personally pledged £20million to fund it.
In the Thursday press conference, Aston Martin F1 driver Sebastian Vettel sported rainbow Converse shoes and had strong words to match.
“Everybody’s free to do what they want and exactly that I guess is the point,” Vettel said.
“I find it embarrassing for a country that is in the European Union having to vote or having some laws like this.
“I just think we’ve had so many opportunities to learn in the past and I can’t understand why you’re struggling to see everybody should be free to do what they like, love who they like and it’s along the lines of ‘live and let live’.
“So it’s obviously not for us to make the law, that’s not our role, but I think just to express the support for obviously those that are affected by it.”
In June, the president of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen slammed the bill as discriminatory and “a shame” and this month, the European Parliament voted for legal action against the law which Orban used as justification for the referendum.