Berlin — The city of Munich wanted to light up its sports stadium in rainbow colors on Wednesday as Germany’s national team took on Hungary in the European soccer championship. It would be a show of support for LGBTQ+ people — and a clear jab at Hungary, which recently passed a law banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors.
The U.S., many European nations, and a range of human rights groups have roundly condemned the controversial law. The U.S. State Department said it includes restrictions that “have no place in democratic society.”
But the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) rejected the request by the Munich City Council. In a statement, UEFA noted that it was “a politically and religiously neutral organization,” and “given the political context of this particular request — a message aimed at a decision by the Hungarian national parliament — UEFA must reject this request.”
UEFA said it had suggested other dates for Munich to light up the city with rainbow colors.
Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter said previously that he wrote to UEFA to request the illumination of the Allianz Arena, on behalf of the city council, to send “a signal in the spirit of cosmopolitanism and tolerance,” as well as “a signal for our common understanding of values that is visible from afar.”
The city’s request was backed by, among others, Bavaria state’s Prime Minister Markus Söder and the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD), as well as German national team member Leon Goretzka and Hungary’s Willi Orban.
“We as an association find it very disconcerting how UEFA is dealing with values that should be generally accepted in society,” LSVD spokesman Markus Ulrich told Sport-Informations-Dienst. “UEFA has failed to recognize the signs of the times — and it is clear to see which side it is taking with its decision.”
In response to UEFA’s decision, some soccer teams in Germany’s national league, the Bundesliga, have called for their own stadiums to shine with the rainbow colors. Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt, for instance, have said their stadiums should be illuminated during the Germany-Hungary match on Wednesday in a show of support for diversity.
The umbrella organization behind Germany’s “Christopher Street Days” – annual LGBTQ+ celebrations and demonstrations held around the country on the first weekend of July, along with partners including Amnesty International, also plan to make 11,000 rainbow flags available to spectators in Munich.
“Let’s show the LGBTIQ in Hungary that they are not alone,” the organization said in a statement. “But let’s also show the whole world that human rights must apply to all people.”