The president of Ukraine on Wednesday said his country will continue to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
“With U.S. support, Ukraine will continue to advance respect for human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international standards and obligations, as well as to fight racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community,” says a joint statement issued after Presidents Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy met at the White House. “Ukraine plans to strengthen accountability for violence against all persons regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political views, including through legislation.”
Members of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus last week urged Biden to raise LGBTQ rights with Zelenskyy.
The letter the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus sent to Biden on Aug. 25 noted Ukraine “has made significant strides on human rights generally, but has not been consistent on equality for LGBTQ+ people.”
“In particular, we are alarmed at the introduction of several bills in Ukraine’s parliament that would harm Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community,” reads the letter. “While these bills — which include criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity and punishment for homosexual or transgender ‘propaganda’ in the style of a harmful law in place in Russia — have failed to pass, we expect that they will continue to be introduced and to be a threat to Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community.”
The letter notes there has been violence at Pride parades in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and in other cities.
Wednesday’s statement did not note specific LGBTQ rights bills or initiatives, but the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus letter said the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers has introduced a measure that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the country’s hate crimes law. The letter also notes Zelenskyy’s government “recently approved an action plan for the country’s updated National Human Rights Strategy, representing additional progress in the government’s plan to promote equality and human rights” that will promote gender equality and recognize hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.
“Human rights and civil liberties, including for the LGBTQI+ community, is a priority for this administration in Ukraine and around the world,” a senior administration official told the Washington Blade earlier this week.
Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley, who spearheaded the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus statement, applauded the commitment to LGBTQ rights.
“While Ukraine has made significant strides on behalf of LGBTQ individuals, challenges still remain,” said the Illinois Democrat in a statement. “I was pleased to learn that President Biden and President Zelenskyy discussed some of these concerns during today’s meeting. I remain committed to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights around the globe because LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.”