Ukraine’s Zelensky to consider same-sex marriage after tens of thousands sign petition

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference with the heads of state of France, Germany and Romania, at Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.

A petition calling for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Ukraine is to be considered by president Volodymyr Zelensky after gaining more than 28,000 signatures.

Zelensky will have ten days to respond to the demands outlined in the petition, which include the legalisation of same-sex marriages and civil partnerships, the BBC reported Tuesday (12 July).

In Ukraine, any petition that gathers more than 25,000 signatures must be considered by the current acting president. It does not guarantee a change in law.

At the moment, same-sex relationships are not criminalised in the country, but marriages and civil partnerships are not recognised, meaning certain rights – such as co-ownership of property or joint adoption – are not permissible for LGBTQ+ partners.

It also means that the partners of LGBTQ+ soldiers who have died while fighting the Russian invasion cannot collect their body to bury them.

LGBTQ+ nonprofit KyivPride applauded the petition and its efforts, which states in the description that “at this time, every day can be the last”.

Oksana Solonska, media communications manager at KyivPride, told the BBC that this is an “important moment” for the LGBTQ+ community in Ukraine.

“It is important that LGBTQ+ people have the right to see their partner and take their body from the morgue, and seek compensation if needed,” she said.

“All married couples have these rights. We really hope that same-sex marriage will be legalised, so people will be able to take care of each other.”

People wave the Ukrainian flag at the New York City Pride Parade on June 26, 2022 in New York City.

People wave the Ukrainian flag at the New York City Pride Parade on June 26, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

LGBTQ+ rights are a heavily divisive topic in Ukraine, with just 24 per cent of Ukrainians supporting same-sex marriage according to a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

The anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments in the country have led to criticism of the adoption of the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty that aims to combat violence against women. Detractors have called it a “back door” to the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Similarly, gender-affirming medication is incredibly difficult to obtain in the country, as Ukrainian trans woman Anastasia Eva Domani explained in an interview with OpenDemocracy.

“The first endocrinologist I consulted about going on HRT advised me not to start training because I had a family,” she said. “At that time married people with children weren’t officially allowed to change gender.

“But that doesn’t stop people. They just start taking HRT on their own… They can’t change their ID papers, but they can change their bodies to feel more natural in them. Then they might be able to get a new official ID photo and take a gender-neutral name. Lots of people resort to this kind of compromise.”

Controversy arose in June when Zelensky’s presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych – a well-known and popular figure in the country – said that “LGBT people are people with disabilities” and that he “doesn’t believe in propaganda”.

KyivPride demanded the resignation of Arestovych after the statement, made in a broadcast on 19 June, saying that “such rhetoric from authorities is unacceptable” in light of Ukraine’s bid to join the EU.

Arestovych, who is often referred to as a “national antidepressant” according to The Economist, said in a follow-up post: “The LGBT community is outraged and talking about my resignation. But look at this photo and you’ll understand who should be truly outraged.”

“I think I’m being persecuted, no? I demand tolerance,” he continued. At the time of reporting, Arestovych has not yet resigned or been approached about his resignation.