UEFA Insists Request for Rainbow Stadium Lights Was 'Political,' But Supports LGBT Rights

The UEFA, which has come under scrutiny for denying a request for rainbow stadium lights in honor of pride month for a match between Germany and Hungary at the European championship, said it denied the request from Munich because of its political motivations.

The organizer said the lights were "a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament."

"UEFA respects the rainbow," the governing body of football in Europe said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It is a symbol that embodies our core values, promoting everything that we believe in—a more just and egalitarian society, tolerant of everyone, regardless of their background, belief or gender," UEFA said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Munich
Passers-by walk on Marienplatz in front of the city hall of Munich that is decorated with rainbow colored flags on Wednesday after the football body UEFA's refusal to light Munich's Euro 2020 stadium in rainbow colors, as Germany vowed to stage a defiant display of colors elsewhere. With Germany due to play Hungary on on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena in Munich, city authorities had planned to light the stadium up in rainbow colors to "send a visible sign of solidarity" with Hungary's LGBTQ community. Kerstin JOENSSON / AFP/Getty Images

A top European Union official said he can't find "any reasonable excuse" for UEFA to reject host city Munich's plans to display rainbow colors during a match between Germany and Hungary at the European Championship.

UEFA said it understood the city's intention to send a message to promote diversity and inclusion but stressed it was "a politically and religiously neutral organization" after it denied the application to have the stadium illuminated in support of LGBT rights.

"Yes, I find it very difficult to understand what UEFA is trying to do by going against this initiative of the Munich city council," European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said during a news conference ahead of Wednesday's match. "Frankly, I do not find any reasonable excuse for that."

Schinas said he was even more surprised by the decision since the governing body of European soccer has previously supported campaigns for inclusion and against racism.

"They supported all the good causes. And all of a sudden, they make an issue out of this," he said.

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter's application to UEFA made clear the city 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 has been denounced as anti-LGBT discrimination by human rights groups, who say it links homosexuality with pedophilia.

In a statement Wednesday, the European Union's chief executive vowed to take any action necessary to thwart the new law, which must be endorsed by Hungary's president to take effect.

"This Hungarian bill is a shame," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

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

Several other stadiums in Germany that are unaffiliated with the Euro 2020 tournament said they would light up their venues in rainbow colors.

UEFA insisted the decision to turn down the request was misinterpreted by those who perceived it as a political statement.

"On the contrary, the request itself was political, linked to the Hungarian football team's presence in the stadium for this evening's match with Germany," it said. "For UEFA, the rainbow is not a political symbol, but a sign of our firm commitment to a more diverse and inclusive society."

Soccer
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group F match between Portugal and Germany in Munich on Saturday. Matthias Schrader, Pool/AP Photo