By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com July 01 2012 4:43 PM ET
Elton John used his star power to urge the Ukraine to forego a proposed law that would ban “propaganda” about homosexuality after meeting with a LGBT rights activist who was the victim of a brutal antigay attack in Kiev.
The singer spoke Saturday night from the stage during a concert in the center of the Ukranian capital, according to a joint news release from the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Kaleidoscope Trust, an international LGBT rights organization.
“Recently I have read that people who are gay in Ukraine have been beaten up. And that for me is wrong. And that for me doesn’t symbolize Ukraine,” he said. “Ukraine is a good place and it is full of great people. It should never be a crime to be a different color, or a different religion or a different sexual orientation. We are all God’s children. We all deserve a chance. And I plead with you Ukraine, stop the violence against gay people and say no to law 8711. You are great people Ukraine. I love you very much. Let us embrace each other and hold each other close. We are all special people.”
The proposed law, which the United Nations has denounced as a violation of international human rights standards, would make all public discussion of LGBT issues, even the comments from John, illegal. The Elton John AIDS Foundation is the largest private funder of HIV services for men who have sex with men in Ukraine, according to the news release.
Prior to his public remarks, John met with Svyatoslav Sheremet, the leader of Gay Forum of Ukraine, who was beaten by neo-Nazis last month in an attack captured by photographers. He had been organizing a Pride festival in Kiev that was canceled because of the dangers posed by rightwing extremist forces in the city.
Lance Price, executive director of the international LGBT human rights organization, the Kaleidoscope Trust, joined John backstage at the conference.
“Next weekend London will host the World Pride parade in Central London,” he said. “But while we celebrate our rights we cannot forget that that those very same rights are being denied to gay people all over the world. No fewer than 78 countries criminalize homosexuality. In five of them the maximum penalty is death. It is sad that Ukraine, which was the first former Soviet republic to decriminalize homosexuality should now be threatening to imprison gay people again.”
Organizers of the Kiev Pride festival welcomed the comments from John.
“If the proposed law 8711 is passed it would be illegal for Elton John to stand on a stage and speak up for gay rights,” said Taras Karasiichuk, chairman of the organizing committee. “This legislation would deprive LGBT people of the human rights that everybody should be entitled to. It would leave us open to more violence and attacks.”
Karasiichuk was the victim of an antigay attack last week that broke his jaw, according to the news release.