Svyatoslav Sheremet, the head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine, is beaten.
Petition Circulates After Beating of Rights Leader

By Brett Edward Stout

Originally published on Advocate.com May 31 2012 5:40 PM ET

Thousands spurred on by violence in Ukraine are urging lawmakers there to denounce a proposed "gay propaganda" law like one implemented in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The organization AllOut reports that more than 67,000 people signed a letter calling on Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to block the proposed law. Their outcry follows the cancellation of the annual Gay Pride Parade in Kiev earlier this month. Then the head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine, Svyatoslav Sheremet, was brutally beaten by a group of yet-unidentified men. A photo of the attack went viral online.

According to some reports, the pride celebration was canceled just minutes before it was scheduled to begin because of a rumor that a mob of more than 500 violent, antigay protesters were en route. A senior police official said publicly that he was unwilling to put Kiev police officers in harm’s way to protect LGBT citizens. Even after police escorted activists from the area, two who chose to remain were met with beatings and tear gas as dozens descended upon them.

Unlike the situation in neighboring Russia, in Ukraine gay pride parades have had official government sanction since 2003. The threats have largely come from neo-Nazi groups and a new movement of Ukrainian evangelicals and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has started becoming more politically active since 2007.

With the support of the right-wing religious movement, the Ukrainian legislature is scheduled this session to vote on a gay “propaganda” law nearly identical to the controversial ban recently instituted in St. Petersburg, Russia. The bill would make any positive public mention of gays or lesbians or any public attempt to advocate for LGBT rights illegal.

International outcry over the proposed law is putting pressure on Ukraine, but it is widely expected that it will still pass.

France, Germany, and others have threatened to boycott the upcoming Euro 2012 Football Championship Games if Ukraine does not change course on the legislation.

LGBT activists and allies have pointed out that while explicit protections do not exist for gays and lesbians in the Ukraine, the proposed law seems to violate the country’s constitution. While the Ukrainian constitution limits marriage to one man and one woman, it also guarantees protections for "political, religious and other beliefs."