Ukraine’s parliament has dropped a bill that would have protected LGBT workers from discrimination due to their sexual orientation, after a demonstration by hundreds of protesters.
The measure, which was scheduled to be voted on May 21 and is backed by the European Union, is currently postponed indefinitely.
The legislation was part of President Viktor Yanukovych’s efforts to bring Ukraine’s laws in line with other countries in the European Union, to allow Ukraine to join in the future.
The protest was held in Kiev, the country’s capital, and was attended by about 300 anti-gay protesters. In Parliament, those who opposed the bill included the nationalist political party Svoboda, which is largely supported by Catholics and one of the country’s five major political parties, and the Communist Party.
Officials cited a desire to avoid potential violence as their reason for dropping the bill. Brawls are not uncommon in Ukraine’s Parliament; in March 2012, a politician’s decision to give a speech in Russian, as opposed to Ukrainian, caused a fistfight between several lawmakers. (Ukrainian politicians site language as one of the country’s most polarizing issues; the official state language is Ukrainian, but studies have shown that native Russian speakers constitute a third of Ukraine’s population. Centuries of Russian rule over Ukraine contributed to both the language’s popularity and its detestation.)
The protesters outside Parliament were also objecting to LGBT advocates’ plans for a gay pride parade on May 25; a second rally, held outside the mayor’s office, was there to demand the parade plans be stopped.
A petition supporting their cause with 11,000 signatures was presented after the rallies.
In February 2013, Ukraine’s foreign minister Leonid Kozhara told Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that an anti-LGBT discrimination bill would be passed in Ukraine soon; he stated that he felt the desire to speed up entry into the European Union would outweigh the resistance to LGBT equality.
Currently, the ruling political group in Ukraine is the Party of Regions; they are known for being strongly pro-Russia, which recently forbid pro-LGBT “propaganda” and passed a law enacting a hundred-year ban on pride parades. Ukraine’s Parliament has considered doing the same, despite disapproval from the European Union.
A 2007 poll showed that only 5.7% of Ukrainians considered “gay lifestyles” acceptable, and even fewer, 4.7%, said they considered legalizing marriage equality to be a priority.