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International

UEFA Declines Munich Application for Rainbow-Colored Stadium

MUNICH — UEFA has declined the Munich city council's application to have its stadium illuminated in rainbow colors for Germany's final European Championship group game against Hungary on Wednesday.

The governing body said in a statement Tuesday that it understands the intention behind the proposal but "must decline this request" because of its political context — "a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament."

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter's application on behalf of the council made clear it wanted to protest a law passed by Hungarian lawmakers last week that prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment. The law was denounced as anti-LGBT discrimination by human rights groups.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó blasted the German 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 in Luxembourg. "They want to express this by including politics in a sporting event, which has nothing to do with the passing of national laws."

UEFA said it believes "that discrimination can only be fought in close collaboration with others" and it proposed that Munich illuminates the stadium with the rainbow colors on June 28 for Christopher Street Day or between July 3-9 for the Christopher Street Day week in the city.

The body said these dates "align better with existing events."

German soccer federation spokesman Jens Grittner had already suggested Monday that it might also be an option to display the colors in the days after Hungary's visit. Munich will host a quarterfinal match at Euro 2020 on July 2.

But the delayed action undermines the Munich's city's planned protest against what it calls "the homophobic and transphobic legislation of the Hungarian government."

Hungary's National Assembly approved the bill against sharing LGBT content with minors in a 157-1 vote last week, when one independent lawmaker voted against it and all other opposition parties boycotted the voting session in protest.

"This legislation represents a new mark in the invisibility and disenfranchisement of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) and adds to the systematic restriction of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms that have been practiced for years in Hungary," the Munich council said in its application, which had cross-party support.

UEFA said it understood the council's intention to send a message to promote diversity and inclusion but stressed that it was "a politically and religiously neutral organization."

Michael Roth, Germany's minister for Europe, said UEFA's decision was "bitter, but expected" and he called for fans attending the game to show their colors in the stadium.

"Set an example for diversity and solidarity with LGBTI people in Hungary and all over Europe! LGBTI rights are human rights!" Roth wrote on Twitter.

Bavarian governor Markus Söder also regretted UEFA's decision.

"It would have been a very good sign of tolerance and freedom. We have to stand up against exclusion and discrimination," Söder said in a post on Twitter.

There are plans for other stadiums, where the tournament is not being played, to be illuminated with rainbow colors during Wednesday's game instead.

"If Munich is not allowed on Wednesday, then the other stadiums in the country will have to show their colors. Come now, league colleagues," Eintracht Frankfurt board spokesman Axel Hellmann said on Twitter.

Cologne confirmed Tuesday morning that its stadium will also show the rainbow colors for the game "on the initiative of various groups from Cologne's society."

Cologne managing director Alexander Wehrl said the club stands for diversity and tolerance.

"Developments in Hungary are terrifying. That makes it all the more important to send a signal against it," Wehrl said.

On Sunday, UEFA gave the go-ahead for Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to continue wearing a captain's armband with the rainbow colors at the tournament.

"What does the rainbow stand for?" German government spokesman Steffen Seibert asked on Monday. "It stands for how we want to live: With respect for each other, without the discrimination that has long excluded minorities. And surely the vast majority of people can relate to that."

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