By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com July 06 2012 11:59 AM ET
Lawmakers in the Ukraine pulled a scheduled vote Friday on a controversial bill that would prohibit people from speaking favorably about homosexuality.
All Out, the international LGBT advocacy group, reported on the failure of the bill to advance after Ukrainian leaders heard criticism from human rights advocates and key European officials. Advocates against the law delivered a petition on Thursday with 120,000 signers to Ukrainian authorities at the European Union and Council of Europe.
The Ukraine aspires to join the European Union, a status that would require the former Soviet republic to abide by legal standards in accordance with Europe. Law 8711, as the proposed legislation is known, would put the Ukraine in conflict with those standards.
“Law 8711 would make it illegal to ‘spread homosexuality' by ‘holding meetings, parades, actions, demonstrations and mass events aiming at intentional distribution of any positive information about homosexuality’ and imposes penalties of fines and up to five years imprisonment,” according to a news release from All Out. “Fines and even time in prison would apply to a journalist who publishes a positive article about a gay person, a writer who features a lesbian character on TV or a teacher who publicly supports human rights for gay people in the classroom.”
Last weekend, Elton John denounced the measure during a concert in Kiev. The work of the Elton John AIDS Foundation would be hindered by the legislation in the country. He also met with a gay rights leader who was brutally beaten in May after official fears of rightwing extremists led to the cancellation of a Pride celebration.
The decision to shelve the bill represents a victory for gay rights campaigners and sends a message to other nations in the region, which has seen a backsliding in democratic freedoms. Last month, 50 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to Hungary’s prime minister in protest of the homophobic and anti-Semitic stances adopted by the far-right political party, Jobbik.
“Above all, this is a victory for our partners in Ukraine,” said Andre Banks, co-founder and executive director of All Out. “Together we are sending a strong message to the other governments of Eastern Europe. Support for anti-gay laws embolden extremists at the expense of lucrative European ambitions."
Lawmakers could consider the bill again during a short period of time in September.