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Trans journalist who enlisted in Ukrainian military wounded

Shrapnel from a Russian artillery shell struck Sarah Ashton-Cirillo on Thursday

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Sarah Ashton-Cirillo in Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Ashton-Cirillo)

EASTERN UKRAINE — Shrapnel from a Russian artillery shell on Thursday wounded a Transgender woman from Las Vegas who is serving in the Ukrainian military.

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo told the Washington Blade that part of the artillery shell hit her in the head and right hand while her unit, the 209th Battalion of the 113th Brigade in the Donbas, was on the frontlines in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

“I was hit this morning,” she wrote in a tweet. “My injuries are permanent. I’ve lost part of my hand and have scarring on my face.”

A video that Ashton-Cirillo posted to Twitter shows a fellow soldier bandaging her hand.

Explosions can be heard in the distance as Ashton-Cirillo speaks.

“They can’t kill us. They can’t hurt us. Victory is ours. It doesn’t fucking matter. Why? Because we’re Ukraine,” she said. “Ultimately Putin is going to be the one dead … and this is the small price for liberation and freedom. Slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine!)”

Friday marks a year since Russia launched its war against Ukraine.

Ashton-Cirillo enlisted in the Ukrainian military after she covered it.

“I want to serve this fight for freedom, this fight for liberty, this fight for all of us,” she told the Blade last December while she was in D.C. to speak with lawmakers on behalf of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry about continued support for Ukraine.

Ashton-Cirillo on Wednesday sent the Blade pictures of her “from the trenches” where she and her unit are fighting. Ashton-Cirillo said “this act of war by Putin has set in motion a timely and irreversible civil rights movement in Ukraine, one that has been extraordinarily beneficial to the LGBTQ community.”

“From hundreds of openly queer men and women serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine to President Zelenskyy’s positive statement about civil partnerships and human rights as applied to the community, what Putin has done has allowed freedom to bloom in Ukraine.” 

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Eastern Europe

Hungary’s Justice Minister vows to fight EU on anti-LGBTQ law

The law that banned the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to minors in Hungary took effect on July 8, 2021

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Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga (Photo credit: Judit Varga, Government of Hungary/Facebook)

BUDAPEST – In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga stated that the government of Prime Minister Viktor Mihály Orbán would continue to battle the European Commission over Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ education law that the EU governing body maintains discriminates against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Varga wrote in her post [Translated]:

Today I filed a complaint with the Court of the European Union regarding the breach of obligations initiated under the Hungarian Child Protection Act. We continue to stick to our conviction and those enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, that education is a national jurisdiction and it is the right of the parents to decide on the upbringing of children.

As before, we will continue to go against the wall when it comes to the protection of our children. Cases revealed in recent weeks prove that there is a great need for the Child Protection Act and even further measures. 🇭🇺✌🏻

Hungary will not surrender! 🇭🇺

Today I filed a counterclaim to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the infringement procedure on Hungary’s Child Protection Act. We continue to stand by our conviction and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union that education is a national competence and that parents have the right to decide on the upbringing of their children.

Like before, we will go clear on to the end when it comes to protecting our children. The cases that have come to light in recent weeks clearly shows the need for a child protection law as well as further measures. 🇭🇺✌

The law that banned the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to minors in Hungary was signed into law by Prime Minister Orbán and took effect on July 8, 2021. At the time, the Háttér Society, a Hungarian LGBTQ rights group said in a statement:

“The homophobic and transphobic amendments to the law, which came into force on July 8, 2021, stigmatize LGBTQI people, deprive LGBTQI youth of information that is vital to them, and illegally restrict freedom of speech and the right to education.” 

Reuters reported the standoff comes at a time when the EU has suspended the disbursement of billions of euros of much-needed EU funds to Hungary until Budapest implements reforms to improve judicial independence and tackle corruption.

Orban, who has publicly proclaimed that he is a “defender of traditional family Catholic values,” has been criticised by international human rights groups as discriminating against LGBTQ+ people with this law which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called a “disgrace.”

Court of Justice in the Palais de la Cour de Justice
(EU/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

The European Commission referred Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU over the anti-LGBT law in mid-2022. The commission has said it considers that the law violates the EU’s internal market rules, the fundamental rights of individuals and EU values.

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Ukrainian lawmaker introduces bill to legally recognize same-sex couples

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy backs civil partnership law

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A Pride commemoration in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022. A Ukrainian MP has introduced a bill that would legally recognize same-sex couples in the country. (Photo courtesy of Sphere Women's Association)

KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian MP has introduced a bill that would extend legal recognition to same-sex couples.

Inna Sovsun in a series of tweets notes 56 percent of Ukrainians “support same-sex partnerships” and she hopes “the majority of the Parliament, including [President Volodymyr Zelenskyy)’s party will take the lead from the people.”

“Ukrainians can no longer wait for equality,” said Sovsun. “We must do it immediately. LGBT Ukrainians deserve to have a family. Every day can be their last. Just like for any other Ukrainian. There is no time for hesitation. Let’s legalize same-sex partnerships in Ukraine already this year.”

Russia on Feb. 24, 2022, launched its war against Ukraine.

“Every day, Ukrainian LGBT military personnel put themselves in danger protecting us,” said Sovsun. “Yet if they are in relationships, the state does not recognize those. This means that their partners do not have the same benefits as partner (sic) in heterosexual relationships.”

“This includes some very unsettling sitaution (sic),” she added. “If (an) LGBT military person is wounded, his/her partner would not be able to make decisions about his/her medical treatment.”

Zelenskyy last summer said he supports a civil partnerships law for same-sex couples. 

Ukrainian lawmakers late last year unanimously approved a media regulation bill that bans hate speech and incitement based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova during a Jan. 26 event in D.C. that highlighted LGBTQ+ and intersex servicemembers in her country applauded Kyiv Pride and other advocacy groups. Markarova acknowledged “not everything is perfect,” but added Ukraine is “moving in the right direction.”

“We together will not only fight the external enemy, but also will see equality,” she said.

Ruslana Hnatchenko, funding manager of the Sphere Women’s Association, a Kharkiv-based group that promotes LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Ukraine, last month told the Washington Blade during a Zoom interview from the Hungarian capital of Budapest that conservative politicians, prominent figures within the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches and many Ukrainians themselves remain opposed to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights. Hnatchenko said she believes Zelenskyy “believes in human rights,” but the landscape to advance LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in her country remains complex.

“He (Zelenskyy) is kind of between a rock and a hard place in that sense, but I believe that human rights in Ukraine will overcome, especially after our victory,” said Hnatchenko. “We will make progress.”

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LGBTQ+ activists in Ukraine remain defiant

Friday marks a year since Russia launched its war

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A Pride commemoration in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sphere Women's Association)

KHARKIV, Ukraine — Anna Sharyhina, co-founder of the Sphere Women’s Association, a group that promotes LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022, led a Pride march in a subway station in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city that is less than 30 miles from the Russian border in eastern Ukraine.

Kharkiv Pride took place during the Ukrainian military’s counteroffensive against Russian troops in Kharkiv Oblast. Sphere Fundraising Manager Ruslana Hnatchenko on Tuesday told the Washington Blade during a Zoom interview the subway was the only safe place for the event to happen, but she said it was “very important for us to have it in Ukraine and have it in Kharkiv.”

“Kharkiv carries a significance of being at the frontline and it is so close to Russia,” said Hnatchenko. “It was great to have it there.”

Anna Sharyhina, co-founder of the Sphere Women’s Association, center, leads a Pride march in a subway station in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sphere Women’s Association)

Friday marks one year since Russia launched its war against Ukraine.

Dmitry Shapoval, a gay man with HIV from Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and Anastasiia Baraniuk and her partner, Yulia Mulyukina, who were living together from Dniptro, a city on the Dnieper River in central Ukraine, are among the millions of people who have left Ukraine over the last year.

Hnatchenko was in Budapest, Hungary, studying for her master’s degree when the war began, and she spoke with the Blade from there. She visited her family over the Christmas holidays, but they met in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine that is close to the country’s border with Poland, because it was safer than Kharkiv.

“It was unsafe for me to come to Kharkiv,” said Hnatchenko. “It would be better for everyone to meet in the west.”

A Russian airstrike on March 1, 2022, killed Elvira Schemur, a 21-year-old law school student who was a volunteer for Kharkiv Pride and Kyiv Pride. Schemur was volunteering inside Kharkiv’s regional administration building when she was killed.

Hnatchenko said activists in Kherson, a city that Ukrainian forces liberated last November, told her Russian soldiers “were aware of where people from vulnerable groups (LGBTQ+ and intersex people and Roma people) lived.” Hnatchenko told the Blade people who identified as LGBTQ+, intersex or nonbinary did not go outside during the occupation because they were afraid of being forcibly conscripted, attacked or sexually assaulted.

“A lot of LGBT people just tried not to go outside … and obviously not to expose anything about their identity,” she said.

Hnatchenko also told the Blade women and girls in Kherson tried to dress in a “non-attractive way” in order “to make themselves look ugly, so the troops would take less interest in them.”

‘We help our soldiers’

Activists and advocacy groups remain defiant. They also continue to support LGBTQ+ and intersex Ukrainians who remain inside the country and servicemembers.

Hnatchenko said Sphere has provided humanitarian assistance and psychological support to more than 1,500 people. 

Outright International, RFSL (the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights), Hivos and private donors inside Ukraine and elsewhere have donated funds that have allowed Sphere to purchase generators, clothes and blankets that it has distributed to Kharkiv’s LGBTQ+ and intersex residents during blackouts that Russia’s attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure have caused.

The U.S. Agency for International Development and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief over the last year have delivered millions of doses of antiretroviral drugs for Ukrainians with HIV/AIDS. Then-Kyiv Pride Executive Director Lenny Emson last month during a photo exhibit at Ukraine House in D.C. that highlighted Ukrainian LGBTQ+ and intersex servicemembers noted the organization continues to purchase basic supplies for them.

“We buy shoes. We buy underwear. We buy socks. We buy heaters,” said Emson. “We help our soldiers.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy over the last year has indicated his support of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

Zelenskyy last summer said he supports a civil partnerships law for same-sex couples. 

Ukrainian lawmakers late last year unanimously approved a media regulation bill that will ban hate speech and incitement based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure passed days before Zelenskyy, a former actor and comedian, met with President Joe Biden at the White House and addressed Congress.

Zelenskyy last month made a broad reference to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in a virtual Golden Globes appearance. Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova during the Jan. 26 event in D.C. applauded Kyiv Pride and other LGBTQ+ and intersex rights groups in her country.

“Thank you for everything you do in Kyiv, and thank you for everything that you do in order to fight the discrimination that still is somewhere in Ukraine,” said Markarova. “Not everything is perfect yet, but you know, I think we are moving in the right direction. And we together will not only fight the external enemy, but also will see equality.”

From left: Then-Kyiv Pride Executive Director Lenny Emson, QUA – LGBTQ Ukrainians in America President Bogdan Globa and Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova at a photo exhibit that highlights LGBTQ+ and intersex soldiers in Ukraine. Ukraine House in D.C. hosted the event on Jan. 26, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Biden on Feb. 20 met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

Hnatchenko told the Blade she thinks Zelenskyy “does believe in human rights.”

“Maybe he’s not a full-blown ally, yet, but I think he believes in human rights,” she said, while noting she was sharing her personal thoughts about Zelenskyy. “He’s not only doing that because of the pressure from partners, but there’s pressure from within Ukraine to not do that.”

Hnatchenko further acknowledged conservative politicians, prominent figures within the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches and many Ukrainians themselves remain opposed to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights.

“He (Zelenskyy) is kind of between a rock and a hard place in that sense, but I believe that human rights in Ukraine will overcome, especially after our victory,” said Hnatchenko. “We will make progress.”

Helen Globa, co-founder of Tergo, a support group for parents and friends of LGBTQ+ and intersex Ukrainians, on March 2, 2022, left her apartment in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. She lived in New York with her son, Bogdan Globa, and his husband until she returned to Ukraine last August.

Helen Globa, like Hnatchenko, acknowledged many Ukrainians remain opposed to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, but she said Zelenskyy’s support of civil unions for same-sex couples and LGBTQ+ and intersex Ukrainians in the country’s armed forces are two tangible results of activists’ work in the country. Helen Globa also said one of the reasons she decided to return to Ukraine was to continue her support of these efforts.

“I love Ukraine and my life, my activities,” she told the Blade on Wednesday. “I do believe in our victory and further opportunities to finish my LGBTQ human rights activities by pushing our government to adopt same-sex partnership and marriages.”

Helen Globa, co-founder of Tergo, a support group for parents and friends of LGBTQ+ and intersex Ukrainians, speaks at a rally for LGBTQ+ and intersex Ukrainians on April 3, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo, a Transgender woman from Las Vegas who enlisted in the Ukrainian military after she covered the war, echoed Helen Globa.

“This act of war by Putin has set in motion a timely and irreversible civil rights movement in Ukraine, one that has been extraordinarily beneficial to the LGBTQ community,” Ashton-Cirillo told the Blade on Tuesday from the frontlines where she is fighting with the 209th Battalion of the 113th Brigade in the Donbas. “From hundreds of openly queer men and women serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine to President Zelenskyy’s positive statement about civil partnerships and human rights as applied to the community, what Putin has done has allowed freedom to bloom in Ukraine.”

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Ukrainian ambassador to U.S. highlights LGBTQ+, intersex rights

Oksana Markarova spoke at servicemembers photo exhibit in D.C.

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Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova speaks at Ukraine House on Jan. 26, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova on Jan. 26 spoke in support of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights during an event that highlighted her country’s LGBTQ+ servicemembers.

“(The) LGBTQ+ community is an inseparable community of us, whether it’s here or in Ukraine,” said Markarova. “The faster we can stop any discrimination, the faster we will win, not only in the battlefield in Ukraine, but we also will win globally.”

Markarova spoke during a photo exhibit at Ukraine House that showcased LGBTQ+ and intersex Ukrainian servicemembers.

QUA – LGBTQ Ukrainians in America, the Ukrainian Union of the LGBT Military and KyivPride organized the exhibit that features photographs from Alim Yakubov, a Crimean Tartar who moved to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

KyivPride Executive Director Lenny Emson, QUA – LGBTQ Ukrainians in America President Bogdan Globa and U.S. Agency for International Development Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator Jay Gilliam are among those who spoke alongside Markarova.

Viktor Pylipenko, an openly gay Ukrainian servicemember who founded the Ukrainian Union of the LGBT Military, spoke via a video from the frontlines of Russia’s war against his country. A Russian missile attack forced him to end his remarks and seek shelter.

“I want to thank all of them for their service to country,” said Markarova. “It’s unbelievable and (the) ultimate sacrifice to be there in harm’s way.”

Markarova also described Globa as “a leader for all Ukrainians here” and said she is “really thankful for all the activities that we do together, and everything that you do.” Globa later told the Washington Blade that Markarova is the first Ukrainian ambassador to speak at an LGBTQ-specific event in the U.S.

QUA – LGBTQ Ukrainians in America President Bogdan Globa speaks at Ukraine House in D.C. on Jan. 26, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2021 pledged Ukraine would continue to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after he met with President Joe Biden at the White House.

Russia on Feb. 24, 2022, launched its war against Ukraine.

Zelenskyy last summer said he supports a civil partnership law for same-sex couples.

Ukrainian lawmakers last Dec. 15 unanimously approved a media regulation bill that bans hate speech and incitement based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Zelenskyy less than a week later traveled to D.C.

Zelenskyy, a former actor and comedian, earlier this month made a broad reference to LGBTQ and intersex rights in a virtual Golden Globes appearance.

Markarova praised Emson and Kyiv Pride and other Ukrainian LGBTQ and intersex rights groups that include Gender Z and Insight.

“Thank you for everything you do in Kyiv, and thank you for everything that you do in order to fight the discrimination that still is somewhere in Ukraine,” said Markarova, speaking directly to Emson. “Not everything is perfect yet, but you know, I think we are moving in the right direction. And we together will not only fight the external enemy, but also will see equality.”

“It’s a constant fight,” added Markarova. “It’s a fight that makes us better. It’s a fight that makes us freer, and it’s a fight that ultimately will give us the opportunity to live in the country where everyone again, regardless of their nationality, religion, color of their skin or sexuality, can live where they want to live.”

Markarova also noted Russia “brutally crossed the border and attacked us in 2014 and again attacked us now.” She added her country is “also fighting for something bigger.”

“We are fighting for our right to live how we want to live. We are fighting for our democracy. We’re fighting for the right to choose who we want to choose and whether it has to do with the government or whether it has to do with who we love and how we believe and this is very important,” said Markarova. “This is what differentiates Ukraine from Russia that attacks us; that we are free, we are democratic and we want to live like we want to live. That’s why we will never give up or surrender again.”

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Zelenskyy notes LGBTQ+ rights support in Golden Globes speech

Ukrainian president is a former actor and comedian

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Screen capture via Twitter)

BEVERLY HILLS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday in a virtual Golden Globes appearance made a broad reference to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in his country.

“I can definitely tell you who were the best in the previous year: It was you, the free people of the free world. Those who united around the support of the free Ukrainian people in our common struggle for freedom, democracy, for the right to live, to love, to give birth, no matter who are you are, no matter where you are from, no matter who you are with,” said Zelenskyy in a video message shown during the Golden Globes ceremony that took place at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

Zelenskyy, a former actor and comedian, in 2021 pledged Ukraine would continue to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after he met with President Joe Biden at the White House.

Russia on Feb. 24, 2022, launched its war against Ukraine. 

Zelenskyy last summer said he supports a civil partnerships law for same-sex couples.

Ukrainian lawmakers last Dec. 15 unanimously approved a media regulation bill that bans hate speech and incitement based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Zelenskyy less than a week later traveled to D.C.

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Anti-LGBTQ+ law targeting schools vetoed by Polish President

“The Polish government is likely to continue trying to limit students’ access to accurate, inclusive, & age-appropriate sexuality education”

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Polish President Andrzej Duda (Screenshot/YouTube PBS News Hour)

WARSAW – A controversial bill that would further limit access to comprehensive sexual education and anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination preventative classes in schools was vetoed last week by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

The measure, similar in nature to an earlier measure also vetoed by Duda, would have implemented restrictions on curriculum and school activities, giving the country’s central government more control over the regional school systems and administrative staff.

The legislation was put forward by the majority ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland’s Parliament known as the Sejm and Senate. Przemysław Czarnek, the ultra-conservative education minister, who backed both bills has publicly claimed that reforms are needed to “protect children from moral corruption.”

Both measures would give school administrators and superintendents the power to remove books, lessons, and ban student participation in events or clubs that are LGBTQ+ affirming.

The first passed the lower house of Poland’s parliament, known as the Sejm, this past January 13, in a 227-214 vote. President Duda vetoed that initial version in March 2022. Undeterred law makers then drafted a later version, which moved control over directly to the education ministry.

Czarnek,  who has been vehemently opposed to the LGBTQ+ rights and the country’s equality movement, working with lawmakers was able to get the second version through the Parliament this past October.

The law, if signed, would have allowed Education Minister-appointed provincial education superintendents to suspend headteachers [principals/headmasters] if they conclude there is an “urgent threat to the safety of students during activities organized by a school.”

Czarnek, has been a leading figure in a campaign against what he has labeled “LGBT ideology,” which the minster alleges “comes from the same roots as Nazism”.

The legislation specified that schools would have had to submit details of extracurricular activities for the superintendent’s approval at least two months before they take place. The legislation also introduces additional hurdles for seeking the consent of parents for such activities.

Opponents of the measures say they were intended to prevent certain outside groups – such as sex educators or those speaking about LGBTQ+ issues – from entering schools.

Czarnek has staked out several public vitriolic anti-LGBTQ+ positions that has included an attack on the LGBTQ+ community in the United States, specifically West Hollywood, California.

Speaking with a reporter on Serwis Info Poranek with the national state-run TVP Info (TVP3 Polska) last June, the Education Minister said- (translated from Polish):

“Let’s end the discussion about these LGBT abominations, homosexuality, bisexuality, parades of equality. Let us defend the family, because failure to defend the family leads to what you see.

Przemysław Czarnek (Screenshot via Serwis Info Poranek)

As he spoke these words, he was holding a phone in his hand, on the display of which he showed a picture of several people. – These are the Los Angeles guys in downtown last June. I was on a delegation there, I was passing through, there was a so-called gay pride parade there – he added. – We are at an earlier stage, there are no such things with us yet, but such chaps shamelessly (shamelessly – ed.) Walk the streets of the western city of Los Angeles – he added.

Passage of the second measure led to widespread protest by students and advocates across Poland. Human Rights Watch noted that students and activists regularly gathered in front of Warsaw’s Presidential Palace and across the country to demand respect for their rights.

They called on President Duda to veto a controversial bill that would further limit access to comprehensive sexuality education and anti-discrimination classes in schools.

Last Thursday Duda told reporters:

“I refuse to sign this bill,” said Duda. “I understand that some people will be disappointed, but a large part of our society will be calmed by this [decision].”

He then noted that he had received over 130 protest letters against the law, some signed by dozens of organizations, with political views ranging from progressives to ultra far-right.

“Entities from all sides of the political scene find points in this act that they have very serious doubts about and against which they protest,” said Duda. “Unfortunately, it has not been possible to achieve what I would call a social compromise…The bill has not received wide social acceptance.”

The president emphasised – as he did when vetoing the similar law last March – that Russia’s war in neighbouring Ukraine makes it all the more important for “us to have peace” at home rather than conflict and division.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said: “The public has taken to Poland’s streets countless times since the conservative Law and Justice party came to power in 2015 and launched an attack on women’s and LGBT rightsjudicial independence, and education. Despite enduring civil society resistance and international pressure, the Polish government is likely to continue trying to limit students’ access to accurate, inclusive, and age-appropriate sexuality education.”

Notes from Poland reported that one of the opposition progressive MPs, Katarzyna Lubnauer of the liberal Modern (Nowoczesna) party, hailed Duda’s veto as “a great victory for Polish schools, for all NGOs, for parents, children and all those who participate in education”

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Ukrainian lawmakers pass LGBTQ-inclusive media regulation bill

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy backed civil partnerships law in August

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Viktoriya, a woman from northern Ukraine who is completing her PhD in Berlin, marches in the Christopher Street Day parade on July 23, 2022. Ukrainian lawmakers have passed a bill that will ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

KYIV, Ukraine — Lawmakers in Ukraine on Thursday unanimously approved a media regulation bill that will ban hate speech and incitement based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It’s a big step for Ukraine, to start adoption of our legislation to European values,” Olena Shevchenko, chair of Insight, a Ukrainian LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, told the Washington Blade. “We hope our government will recognize LGBTQI people as equal as soon as possible.”

Ukraine since 2015 has banned employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2021 pledged Ukraine would continue to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after he met with President Joe Biden at the White House. 

Russia on Feb. 24, 2022, launched its war against Ukraine. Zelenskyy less than six months later said he supports a civil partnerships law for same-sex couples.

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Huge show of support for Slovak LGBTQ+ people after murders

“Certain people are responsible for this tragedy. They are intensively & increasingly inciting spreading hatred towards the LGBTI community”

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20,000+ people gathered to honor victims of the hate crime in the Slovakian capital city (Photo Credit: Barbora Slivkova/Košice PRIDE)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – A vigil held Friday evening in the Slovakian capital city to honor the two victims killed and a third who was badly wounded in a Wednesday night shooting outside of the Tepláreň bar, a popular LGBTQ+ establishment in the old city, was also attended by the nation’s president and the European Parliament’s Vice-President.

Organized by the Initiative Inakosť (Iniciatíva Inakosť), a LGBTQ+ non-governmental agency, there were an estimated 20,000 plus people gathered according to officials. The murders shook the tight-knit Slovakian LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Slovakia is a fairly conservative European Union member country where same-sex marriage is not legal.

A spokesperson for the Polícia Slovenskej republiky, the country’s national police force, said that his agency has classified the shootings as premeditated murder, motivated by hatred of a sexual minority.

19-year-old Juraj Krajcik, the son of a prominent member of the far-right extremist Vlast party, a radicalised student from Bratislava, had left social media posts filled with anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ+ messages including a so called ‘manifesto’ which the gunman had posted prior to the rampage.

Krajcik, who had an online history of hate-filled rhetoric had posted a picture of himself outside the Tepláreň bar this past August along with other writings and posts that led Polícia Slovenskej republiky investigators to conclude that the crime was planned.

Gunman’s August pictures taken in front of the Tepláreň bar from his Twitter & 4 Chan accounts

According to Polícia Slovenskej republiky, the gunman was outside of the bar for nearly an hour before opening fire at around 7 p.m. local time. Investigators said multiple rounds were fired but did not disclose the number nor the weapon used. Police say he was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.

During the vigil for the shooting victims, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova told the crowd, “I’m sorry that our society was not able to protect your loved ones,” adding, “You belong here, you are valuable for our society.”

BBC Europe reported that European Parliament Vice-President Michal Simecka was also at Friday’s event. Simecka expressed his determination to have the European legislature discuss the murders during a session next week.

“To express our sympathy, but also to call on the Slovak authorities to take clear steps to put an end to the language of hatred towards LGBTI people,” he said.

In addition to political leadership at Friday evening’s vigil, Elena Martinčoková (Eleny Martinčokovej) the president of the Association of Parents and Friends of LGBTI+ people spoke expressing her grief and anger towards the environment in the country that fostered far-right hate.

In a Facebook post published by Košice PRIDE, she told the crowd;

I’m going through a lot of pain. Since I heard about this tragedy, I’m in spirit with the parents of the murdered children. They were adults, but they were mainly children, grandchildren, cousins, friends, colleagues who will be greatly missed and the wound and pain the survivors will feel will never heal.

Many tragedies affect us in life, some of them cannot be prevented. Yes to some of them. And this is exactly the one that could have been prevented. Long-term and intensively spreading and inciting hatred towards LGBT+ people in our public space. It is hatred that blinds people, prevents them from thinking sober.

Certain people are responsible for this tragedy. They are the ones who are intensively and increasingly inciting and spreading hatred towards the LGBTI community. They are all over the place. In the National Council of Slovakia, in government, among many church representatives, in extremist groups, among disinformation spreaders and those who do not have credible information, or when they have it, they do not understand them or do not want to understand. I hope this tragedy will not leave the public indifferent. We must act, we must act now. We will not be quiet. We are not going to be intimidated.

Video via România liberă, a Romanian daily newspaper founded in 1943 and currently based in Bucharest:

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Gunman dead in potential hate crime in Slovakian capital

A Twitter account tied to the shooter was discovered and shared, filled with anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ+ posts

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Polícia Slovenskej republiky at shooting crime scene at LGBTQ bar on Oct. 12, 2022 (Photo Credit: Polícia Slovenskej republiky)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Three persons are dead including the gunman in a shooting in front of a popular LGBTQ+ bar in the old town neighborhood of the Slovakian capital city Wednesday evening. A spokesperson for the Polícia Slovenskej republiky, the country’s national police force, told media outlets that the shooter was found deceased Thursday morning after an hours long search through the night.

Picture of the gunman from his now suspended Twitter account

The Polícia Slovenskej republiky said the incident at the Tepláreň bar on Zámocká Street in central Bratislava, left two young men dead and one woman injured, and investigators are naming the perpetrator, Local media identified him as 19-year-old Juraj Krajcik, the son of a prominent member of the far-right Vlast party, a radicalised 19-year-old student from Bratislava.

According to Polícia Slovenskej republiky, the gunman was outside of the bar for nearly an hour before opening fire at around 7 p.m. local time. Investigators said multiple rounds were fired but did not disclose the number nor the weapon used. Police say he was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Polícia Slovenskej republiky also said that the female victim is in critical but stable condition at local hospital. She and one of two young men killed were both employed at the bar.

Allegations and speculation arose on social media as a Twitter account tied to the shooter was discovered and shared, filled with anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ+ posts including a so called ‘manifesto’ which the gunman had posted prior to the rampage. That account also had a picture of the gunman outside the Tepláreň in mid-August.

Gunman’s August pictures in front of the bar from his Twitter& 4 Chan accounts

On Facebook Dúhový Pride Bratislava said, “We’re shocked by the information about the shooting and casualties at Tepláreň, where we meet regularly.” The organization changed its Facebook page photo to black. Iniciatíva Inakosť, another Slovakian LGBTQ+ organization followed suit.

Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger condemned the double murder on Thursday in a press conference telling media outlets that “extremism is unacceptable.”

President Zuzana Čaputová called on politicians to stop spreading hate. “My thoughts are with the family & friends of the victims of yesterday’s horrific attack in Bratislava & everyone in the #LGBTIQ+ community affected by it,” Čaputová said in her Twitter post.

“Words can become weapons. Hate kills. As politicians, we must weigh every word we say before it’s too late,” she added.

Čaputová came to the scene of the shooting on Thursday afternoon, laying flowers in front of Tepláreň and embraced the owner of the bar.

Polícia Slovenskej republiky in a statement issued late Thursday said:

First of all, we would like to thank conscientious citizens who provided us with valuable information on the shooting case in Bratislava at 158. We need to remind everyone again and again: don’t hesitate to call 158. Just putting something on social media may not help. Thank you!

Police act from the first moment. The physical presence of our uniformed colleagues was undoubtedly noticed in the streets throughout the night.

Not only uniformed policemen worked and are working and not all of them are active in the field. Due to the ongoing investigation, but also the tactics, we can’t comment more closely, so we can’t even defend ourselves when any “guaranteed” news regarding our activities appear at these moments. Hence our silence at this stage, please understand.

Procedures to be followed by a police investigator are firmly established in the Criminal Order. Of course, his top priorities include finding the perpetrator’s motive. In order to publish his motive as a Police Department, it is necessary to take necessary actions.

We will inform you about everything, we are thinking about active communication, but we all have to be patient and give the investigator time and space.

And whether it is a hateful motive or not, we want to assure the public that the Police Department maintains zero tolerance for any form of violence, bullying or hatred. We have our values, which we will always stand by, which we have announced long ago.

Thank you for your help and understanding of the legal procedures we follow.

In a tweet Friday morning, LGBTQ+ rights group ILGA-Europe condemned the attack:

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Eastern Europe

Slovenia legalizes same-sex marriage & adoptions

Slovenia has become the first country in Eastern Europe to legalize same-sex marriage & the adoption of minor children by same-sex couples

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Slovenian Parliament building, Ljubljana, Slovenia (Photo Credit: Parliament of Slovenia)

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – This Eastern European country which emerged after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia has become the first country in the region to legalize same-sex marriage and the adoption of minor children by same-sex couples.

After considerable debate Tuesday in the Slovenian parliament, 48 lawmakers passed legislation that guarantees the rights of same-sex couples to marry. 29 Members of Parliament opposed the legislation while one MP abstained.

This past July, the country’s Constitutional Court, in a 6-3 ruling, found that Slovenia law that granted rights to only opposite-sex marriages and adoptions violated a constitutional prohibition against discrimination. The Court ordered the Parliament to amend the law within six months to guarantee that all marriages and adoptions would be equal in the eyes of the law.

At the time of the high court’s ruling, Luka Mesec, the minister of labor, family, social affairs and equal opportunities, said: “The Constitutional Court has ordered us to do it, and we will do it with the greatest pleasure.”

Euronews reported that most of Slovenia’s Eastern European neighbors do not allow civil unions or same-sex marriages.

The government of Estonia came the closest in 2016 by agreeing to recognize same-sex unions created in other countries. Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Montenegro have laws establishing same-sex civil partnerships – and in Hungary, even talking about homosexuality in front of minors has been punishable by a fine since summer 2021, euronews noted.

“With these changes, we are recognising the rights of same-sex couples that they should have had for a long time,” State Secretary Simon Maljevac told MPs when presenting the amendment.

The main opposition party, the Slovenian Democratic Party, criticised the court’s decision and organised several rallies against the new law.

“The best father will never replace a mother and vice versa,” said SDS parliamentary group chairman Alenka Jeraj prior to the debate and vote.

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