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Ukraine president pledges to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination

Volodymyr Zelenskyy with with Joe Biden on Wednesday

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Official Ukrainian Government Portrait )

WASHINGTON — 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 Los Angeles 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.”

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Eastern Europe

LGBTQ+ in Poland: I still can’t be myself – BBC News

Large parts of Poland were labelled “LGBT-free zones”, where regional governments declared they were against LGBT ideology

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Screenshot via BBC News

LONDON- Large parts of Poland were labelled “LGBT-free zones”, where regional governments, as well as smaller councils, declared they were against LGBT ideology or ideologies that “undermine” the family. Now, provinces have started to backtrack after the EU said it would freeze funds. But has anything really changed for LGBT people in those areas?

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Eastern Europe

Alleged leader of Bulgaria LGBTQ community center attack charged

Boyan Rasate is ultranationalist presidential candidate

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(Photo courtesy of the Bilitis Foundation)

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian authorities have charged an ultranationalist presidential candidate in connection with an attack against an LGBTQ community center.

Media reports indicate Boyan Rasate, who leads the Bulgarian National Union, has been charged with hooliganism and infliction of injury in connection with the Oct. 30 attack against Rainbow Hub, an LGBTQ community center in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia that the Bilitis and GLAS (Gays and Lesbians Accepted in Society) Foundations operate. Bulgarian authorities detained Rasate for 72 hours after they charged him in connection with the incident.

The Bilitis Foundation says Rasate led a group of “about 10 men and women” who stormed Rainbow Hub while a group of transgender people were meeting inside. The mob vandalized the community center and assaulted Bilitis Foundation Project Coordinator Gloriya Filipova.

U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria Herro Mustafa is among those who have publicly condemned the attack.

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Eastern Europe

Polish lawmakers advance bill to ban Pride marches

Activist describes vote as ‘very dark day’

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(Public domain photo)

WARSAW, Poland — Lawmakers in Poland on Friday voted to send a bill that would ban Pride marches and other pro-LGBTQ events to committee.

“(The) Polish ruling party voted in favor of further work on a bill with total ban in Pride parades and public gatherings that promote LGBT rights,” said Bart Staszewski, a Polish LGBTQ activist, in a tweet that specifically referenced President Andrzej Duda’s Law and Justice party. “Now the Parliament commission will check the legality of this bill. It is a very dark day for Polish democracy and LGBT people.”

OutRight Action International in a press release notes the measure states “any event which questions marriage as a relationship between a woman and a man or propagates the extension of marriage to persons of the same sex can not go ahead.” The Life and Family Foundation, which opposes LGBTQ rights and abortion, collected more than 140,000 signatures in support of the bill. 

“This is a very dark day in Poland, not only for LGBTIQ people, but for Polish society as a whole,” said acting OutRight Action International Executive Director Maria Sjödin. “Prides are a crucial element of the movement for LGBTIQ equality, and, moreover, they are an expression of the right to freedom of assembly and expression. As such, Prides serve as a litmus test—whether or not a state allows and protects a marginalized, often discriminated community to hold an event such as Pride, is indicative of the health of their democracy.”

“Poland is failing that test today,” added Sjödin.”We call on the relevant Parliamentary committee to reject the proposed bill in its entirety.”

Friday’s vote took place against the backdrop of increased tensions between Poland and the European Union over LGBTQ rights.

The European Commission in September threatened to withhold more than 126 million euros ($145.59 million) in funding from five provincial governments that have enacted so-called LGBTQ “free zones.” The Polish Constitutional Court on Oct. 7 ruled the country’s laws supersede EU statutes where they differ.

Duda ahead of his 2020 re-election said LGBTQ “ideology” is more harmful than communism. Duda has also described LGBTQ Poles as a “threat to the family” and claimed they “want to sexualize children.”

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