Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. had good words for her country’s LGBTQ+ citizens while speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., last week.
Oksana Markarova was at Ukraine House Thursday for a photo exhibit on LGBTQ+ Ukrainian military members, marking the first appearance by a Ukrainian ambassador at an LGBTQ-focused event, the Washington Blade reports.
“[The] LGBTQ+ community is an inseparable community of us, whether it’s here or in Ukraine,” Markarova said at the event, according to the Blade. “The faster we can stop any discrimination, the faster we will win, not only in the battlefield in Ukraine, but we also will win globally.”
She thanked LGBTQ+ soldiers for their service in the war against Russia. “It’s unbelievable and [the] ultimate sacrifice to be there in harm’s way,” she said.
The exhibit showcases photographs from Alim Yakubov, a Crimean Tartar now living in Kyiv. The show was organized by QUA – LGBTQ Ukrainians in America, the Ukrainian Union of the LGBT Military, and KyivPride.
Viktor Pylipenko, a gay Ukrainian soldier and founder of the Ukrainian Union of the LGBT Military, spoke at the event via video, but he had to end his presentation early because of a missile attack from Russia.
In-person speakers included Lenny Emson, executive director of KyivPride; Bogdan Globa, president of QUA – LGBTQ Ukrainians in America; and Jay Gilliam, senior LGBTQI+ coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Markarova praised Ukrainian LGBTQ+ activists.
“Thank you for everything you do in Kyiv and thank you for everything that you do in order to fight the discrimination that still is somewhere in Ukraine,” she said to Emson. “Not everything is perfect yet, but you know, I think we are moving in the right direction. And we together will not only fight the external enemy but also will see equality.” She added that Globa is “a leader for all Ukrainians here.”
Ukraine’s record on LGBTQ+ rights is not stellar, but there is progress. A recent petition urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to work for marriage equality, but he has pointed out that Ukraine’s constitution defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman, and the constitution can’t be changed in wartime. In the meantime, he has called for civil unions for same-sex couples. He also expressed support for LGBTQ+ Ukrainians during a video appearance at the Golden Globes.
In December, Ukrainian legislators approved a bill banning media-based hate speech based on sexual orientation and gender identity.