(Reuters) -Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton spoke out against Hungary's anti-LGBTQ+ legislation ahead of the country's grand prix and urged voters to protect rights by rejecting it in a coming referendum.
The sport's most successful driver of all time is racing for Mercedes at the Hungaroring near Budapest this weekend in the 11th round of the championship that could bring him a record 100th career win.
"Ahead of the Grand Prix this weekend, I want to share my support for those affected by the government's anti-LGBTQ+ law," the Briton posted on Instagram on Thursday.
"It is unacceptable, cowardly and misguiding for those in power (to) suggest such a law. Everyone deserves to have the freedom to be themselves, no matter who they love or how they identify.
"I urge the people of Hungary to vote in the upcoming referendum to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, they need our support more than ever. Please show love for those around you because love will always win."
Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been in power since 2010, has introduced social policies he says aim to safeguard traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.
The European Commission has launched legal action against Orban's government over the new law, which came into force this month, saying it is discriminatory and contravenes European values of tolerance and individual freedom.
A survey last month by the Ipsos polling organisation found that 46% of Hungarians supported same-sex marriage.
Orban announced a referendum last week on legislation that limits schools' teaching about homosexuality and transgender issues.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, whose Aston Martin team has a partnership with the Racing Pride movement which aims to create visibility for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in motorsport, also criticised the legislation.
"I find it embarrassing for a country who is in the European Union having to vote or having some laws like this," said the 34-year-old, who last month criticised soccer body UEFA for its refusal to allow Munich's stadium to be lit in rainbow colours during a Euro 2020 match between Germany and Hungary.
"I just think we’ve had so many opportunities to learn in the past and I can’t understand why we’re struggling to see that everybody should be free to do what they like, love who they like and it's along the lines of live and let live," the German, with a rainbow stripe on his shoe, added.
Hamilton, Formula One's only Black driver, has used his platform to campaign for a range of social issues, human rights and diversity.
He has said that while drivers have no say in where the sport races, it was right to speak out and Vettel agreed.
"It’s obviously not for us to make the law, that’s not our role. But I think just to express the support for those that are affected by it," he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London and Abhishek Takle in Mumbai, editing by Clare Fallon and Toby Davis)