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Home / Press Release / Members of Congress Urge Ukraine to Protect the Rights of LGBT Citizens
May 27, 2016

Members of Congress Urge Ukraine to Protect the Rights of LGBT Citizens

Washington, D.C.- Human Rights First today applauded a group of 38 members of Congress for expressing support for the protection of the rights of Ukraine’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. In a letter to the ambassador of Ukraine organized by Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and John Conyers (D-MI) working closely with Human Rights First, the bipartisan group raised alarm over recent reports of violence and the shutdown of the Equality Festival in Lviv. The group urged the ambassador to ensure that the Ukrainian government supports the safety of organizers during upcoming Pride events in the country.

“We are particularly concerned at the lack of forceful government condemnation of such violence and the overall inaction of authorities in the face of threats and violence against the festival and its participants,” wrote the group. “Brave activists are continuing efforts to promote the concerns of the LGBT community and to create a space to celebrate their progress. The Ukrainian Government must stand with them and support their rights to free expression and physical safety.”

“We welcome Congressmen Cicilline and Conyers' willingness to lead on this important issue,” said Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord. “It’s imperative that the United States continues to engage with governments around the world during Pride season, when many LGBT communities will come together publicly to celebrate their communities and to call for greater respect and protection.”

In mid-March, Equality Festival Lviv was forced to cancel its weekend events because venues retracted sponsorship, the local government banned all public events, and masked assailants issued an anonymous bomb threat. Local authorities failed to provide protection after threats against the festival, contributing to its cancellation. Activists reported that at least two individuals trying to attend the festival were severely beaten and police failed to investigate these crimes. 

Pride events will take place around the world during the summer months, including a Pride celebration planned for Kiev, Ukraine on June 12-13.

Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government work to prevent the spread of Russian-style propaganda laws in the surrounding region. Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Stop Russia from Exporting Homophobia,” details how Russia’s homophobic laws and policies have spread throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and outlines key steps that the U.S. government can take to stop the spread of laws and policies that infringe on the human rights of the LGBT community.

For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org or 212-845-5269.