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In the Ukrainian city of Kherson, a small group of LGBTQ activists and supporters organized an equality march for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (#IDAHOT). The demonstrators marched in support of equality across all lines, be they racial, gender or sexual orientation. They marched for 100 meters, or a little bit further than the length of a football field.
In the interests of safety, the organizers worked with the Ukrainian national police. The police knew all the details of the march — and the site of the march was kept secret until it happened.
Despite the secrecy, somehow a group of local anti-queer activists found out. Even though no one was supposed to know where the march was happening, the homophobes arrived just in time to disrupt the march.
Thankfully, 100 police officers were there to keep the marchers safe. Still, a number of counter-protesters screamed abuse and demanded they stop the march. Some of the counter-protesters tried to break through the police barricade to tear at the marchers’ posters and signs. A few of the counter-protesters were arrested.
This is the second annual IDAHOT march in Kherson. Last year’s march, however, met with similar resistance. That march was blocked by dozens of young homophobic men.
Homosexuality has been legal in Ukraine since 1991, however, in a 2010 study, only 28% of Ukrainians believed that queer people “should be free to live their own lives as they wish.” Ukraine does not allow same-sex marriage, though allowing civil partnerships for same-sex couples has been proposed.
In 2015, Ukraine did pass laws prohibiting employers from rejecting workers based on sexual orientation. This was passed so Ukraine could allow visa-free travel to the European Union — though it still met with resistance. In 2016, the Ukrainian Parliament refused to back the Istanbul Convention, a EU hate crime law over references to sexual orientation and gender expression.
Ukraine also hosted the Eurovision finals this past Saturday, for which the theme was “diversity.”