A Ukrainian court on Thursday banned what would have been Ukraine’s first-ever gay pride demonstration, upholding a suit by city authorities, who argued the rally would disturb annual Kiev Day celebrations and could spark violence.
The ruling dashed the hopes of Ukraine’s gay and lesbian community, who planned to use the event to fight discrimination and derogatory stereotypes of gays. Last year, organizers canceled the event at the last minute when skinheads gathered at its planned location, intent on beating up the participants. Still, two leading activists were brutally beaten by radicals in subsequent weeks.
While the recognition of gay rights advances in much of the West, antipathy toward homosexuals remains strong in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Homosexuality was a criminal offense in the USSR and societal resistance to it remains strong two decades later.
The highly influential Orthodox Church strongly opposes gay rights. A small gay pride rally in the capital of Georgia last week was attacked by a large mob that included Orthodox priests; attempted rallies in Moscow in recent years attract crowds of bellicose Orthodox conservatives.
The gay community is now pondering whether to hold the even at a different location, far away from Kiev Day celebrations, or merely hold a press briefly on the banning of the rally.
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Amnesty International said in a recent report that Ukraine’s gay community suffers attacks and abuses and widespread discrimination. Despite condemnation from the West, the Ukrainian parliament is debating several anti-gay bills, including one which would make any public positive depiction of homosexuality punishable by up to five years in prison.
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