Gay Pride in Ukraine's struggling democracy

Published: May 21, 2013

How Ukrainian officials handle the event will also affect Ukraine’s relationship with the United States.  John Tefft, US Ambassador to Ukraine, said in a statement, “I am proud to extend my support to all of those who plan to participate in the second annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Equality March in Kyiv on May 25, 2013.”  He noted, “By embracing diversity, promoting tolerance, and fighting prejudice and discrimination, we strive to build a world where everyone can enjoy equal human rights.”

The ambassador observed, “This concept is enshrined in Ukraine’s Constitution which explicitly protects freedom of speech and assembly, and stipulates that the main duty of the state is to ‘ensure human rights and freedoms.’  I would like to convey my appreciation to the organizers of the Kyiv Equality March, and I hope that many people, both gay and straight, will join us in this cause.  I wish everyone a successful and peaceful celebration in which no one gets hurt.”

So far, sixty-one members of parliament (MPs) signed a petition urging Kyiv’s mayor to ban this Saturday’s planned gay pride parade.  If officials stop the event or fail to protect LGBTQ demonstrators then US-Ukrainian relations will suffer. 

MPs, Kyiv’s mayor, and Ukraine’s president should ask, “Is it worth it?”  Ukraine, a fledgling democracy at best, risks sliding back into Eurasia strengthening Russia’s ability to exploit it politically and economically.  Ukraine, despite Russia’s oppressive influence, is a European, not Eurasian nation and needs to take its rightful place in the European community.  It cannot do so, if its civil and legal standards are primitive. 

There is an invaluable lesson in civics by allowing the event.  It will benefit all Ukrainians regardless of politics or religion.  It can help teach them to disagree agreeably enabling everyone an opportunity to share opinions eventually without fear.   

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