Members of the Ukrainian Parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, backed the measure by a 234-42 vote margin. The proposal, which would also ban employment discrimination based on HIV status and other factors that include race and age, passed on the sixth round of voting.
The EU requires Ukraine to ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in order to allow citizens of the former Soviet republic to travel to member countries without a visa.
Lawmakers earlier this month twice rejected proposals to ban employment discrimination in Ukraine because they included sexual orientation and gender identity. Ukrayinska Pravda, an online Ukrainian newspaper, reported that Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Groysman stressed before Thursday’s vote that the measure would not extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the former Soviet republic.
President Petro Poroshenko, who is seeking closer ties between his country and the EU, welcomed the vote.
“Ukraine breaks away from the shackles of past Soviet discrimination,” wrote Poroshenko on his Twitter page. “And family values (remain) intact.”
ПП: Україна виривається з кайданів дискримінації радянського минулого. А сімейні цінності непорушні.
— Петро Порошенко (@poroshenko) November 12, 2015
Bogdan Globa, executive director of Fulcrum, a Ukrainian LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement the Human Rights Campaign released that Thursday’s vote is “the first time in 25 years where LGBT people in Ukraine have legal protection from discrimination.”
“This vote proves that Ukraine can change, and must change, to welcome and protect its LGBT citizens,” said Globa.
MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, vice president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, also welcomed the vote.
“I congratulate the Verkhovna Rada for adopting this important anti-discrimination clause, which sends a message of hope to the LGBTI community in Ukraine,” she said. “It is clear that cooperation with the EU is based on shared values and the protection of human rights. This is a positive signal both to the people of Ukraine and to the citizens of the EU.”
State Department spokesperson Mark Toner echoed in ‘t Veld on Friday during his daily press briefing.
“We commend the Ukrainian Rada for passing legislation that bans discrimination against LGBTI persons in the workplace,” said Toner in response to the Washington Blade’s question about the measure.
Alecs Recher, co-chair of Transgender Europe, also welcomed the vote. The advocate nevertheless urged Ukrainian lawmakers to allow trans people in the former Soviet republic to legally change their gender without first spending between 30-45 days in a psychiatric ward, becoming sterilized and divorcing their spouse.
“Discrimination in employment is a severe problem for trans people in Ukraine,” said Recher. “Its gender recognition procedure has a share in it. The procedure violates human rights. Its reform should be the parliaments’ next priority.”
Lawmakers approved the anti-discrimination measure slightly more than two months after an LGBT community center in the city of Kryvyi Rih was attacked.
Members of Pravy Sektor, a Ukrainian nationalist group, in June attacked police officers during an LGBT Pride march in the country’s capital of Kiev.
A court in Odessa earlier this year cancelled a scheduled LGBT Pride march, citing security concerns. A group of masked men on Aug. 15 threw smoke bombs into a building where advocates in the Black Sea resort city had scheduled a forum.
Pro-Russian separatists who govern the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine have banned the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors.
Globa’s mother, Helen Globa, who co-founded Tergo, a support group for parents and friends of LGBT Ukrainians, told the Blade during a June 2014 interview at PFLAG’s D.C. offices that many of her organization’s members who live in the region are unable to attend meetings and travel because of the ongoing conflict between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.
“It has a very negative influence on our work,” she said.