Plans to illuminate a soccer stadium with rainbow colors to show support for LGBT+ rights have been rejected by the game’s governing body in Europe for being too political.
Germany play Hungary at Munich’s Allianz Arena on Wednesday as part of the ongoing Euro 2020 tournament. and politicians in Germany had called for the rainbow colors to be shown to protest Hungary’s government after it passed laws that critics say undermine LGBT+ rights.
Munich’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, had called for rainbow colors “as a symbol of cosmopolitanism and tolerance” and “to send a signal that is visible from afar for our common understanding of values.”
But UEFA said Tuesday that it objected to the reasoning behind the request, which it said breached strict impartiality rules. The stadium has displayed rainbow colors around its outer walls on several previous occasions.
“UEFA, through its statutes, is a politically and religiously neutral organization,” it said in a statement. “Given the political context of this specific request — a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament — UEFA must decline this request.”
Reiter on Tuesday called UEFA’s decision “shameful” and said that the city would drape city hall in the rainbow flags and light up the stadium’s wind turbine and the Munich Olympic tower.
“We will still send a clear sign of our solidarity and our respect for sexual equality to Hungary and the world,” he said in a statement.
In his letter to UEFA detailing the plan, he compared Hungary’s laws to Russia’s “homophobic and transphobic” legislation. He asked UEFA to “use its media coverage to make an emphatic and visible commitment to tolerance and equality.”
Hungary’s right-wing government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, passed a law last week banning the “display and promotion” of homosexuality and gender change among under-18s, in schools and in the media.
Orban has defended the legislation, writing on his website in English that it “does not conflict with any lofty ideals or European laws.”
“The new Hungarian law simply states clearly that only parents can decide on the sexual education of their children,” the statement posted on Thursday said.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó blasted Munich’s plan on Monday.
“In Hungary we have passed a law to protect Hungarian children, and now in Western Europe they are griping about it,” Szijjártó said while in Luxembourg, according to the Associated Press. “They want to express this by including politics in a sporting event, which has nothing to do with the passing of national laws.”
Germany’s minister for Europe called on Twitter on Tuesday for fans to bring rainbow flags to the game in a sign of solidarity.
In its statement, UEFA stressed its commitment to diversity and inclusion and suggested alternate dates for the stadium to be illuminated.
On Sunday, UEFA declined to sanction Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for wearing a rainbow-colored captain’s armband at the tournament.