Coca-Cola is running ads in Hungary that include images of same-sex couples kissing and holding bottles of Coke. Now the company faces backlash from Hungarian politicians and conservative activists. But Coca-Cola has no plans to backtrack.
At least one leading politician from Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party and conservative media outlets have called for boycotting Coke () products or banning the company’s “Love is Love” ad series.
“The Coca-Cola Company strives for diversity, inclusion and equality in our business, and we support these rights in society as well,” a company spokesperson said a statement. “As a long-standing supporter of the LGBTQI community, we believe everyone has the right to love the person they choose. The campaign currently running in Hungary reflects these values.”
Coke launched the “Love is Love” campaign in Hungary days ahead of the progressive Sziget festival, which is scheduled to kick off in Budapest this week. The posters contain slogans, such as, “Zero Sugar, Zero Prejudice.”
The ads can be seen at train stations and elsewhere in the nation’s capital, according to several local media reports. Coke also shared images of the ads on its Hungarian Facebook page over the weekend.
Polls show a growing number of Hungarians support gay rights. A 2017 poll by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association found that more than 60% of the country’s residents believe equal rights should be afforded to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.
But István Boldog, a member of parliament and a Fidesz party leader, called for a boycott of Coca-Cola products until the ads are removed.
An online petition calling for a boycott and for local officials to ban the ads has garnered about half its goal of 50,000 signatures.
“Until now, large companies in Hungary have not advertised with openly gay content and messages. Do not be illusory, this is a test,” a translated version of the petition states. “If Hungarian society accepts this, there will be more and more steps. Posters, commercials, films, rainbow products, etc. And as we continue to slide down the slope, it will become increasingly difficult to stop.”
Budapest, the nation’s capital, often hosts pro-gay rights events, including an annual Pride parade.
The Sziget festival is an annual week-long event that draws high-profile musical guests and promotes an “environment where no one can be discriminated or insulted based on their skin color, religion or sexual identity.”
The Fidesz party and Orban, who has won three consecutive terms in power since 2010, have butted heads with other European Union leaders over marriage equality issues, as well as Orban’s hardline immigration policies and the clamping down on democratic institutions in Hungary