U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois), along with 20 members of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to emphasize the importance of LGBTQ+ rights in Ukraine during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's upcoming visit.
Aug. 31 will be Zelensky's first time to the White House, even though now-former President Donald Trump offered him such a visit more than two years ago, Brookings noted.
In the letter, the members noted the recent introduction of measures in Ukraine's parliament that would harm Ukraine's LGBTQ+ community, as well as violence at Pride celebrations. However, the Ukrainian government has also recently introduced legislation that would recognize crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other factors, as hate crimes.
The members are urging Biden to underscore the importance of LGBTQ+ equality in Ukraine and to encourage Zelensky to lead the charge to pass the hate crimes bill into law.
"Our Caucus has followed discussions around LGBTQ+ rights in Ukraine with great interest. Ukraine has made significant strides on human rights generally but has not been consistent on equality for LGBTQ+ people," the letter read, in part. "In particular, we are alarmed at the introduction of several bills in Ukraine's parliament that would harm Ukraine's LGBTQ+ community. While these billswhich include criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity and punishment for homosexual or transgender 'propaganda' in the style of a harmful law in place in Russiahave failed to pass, we expect that they will continue to be introduced and to be a threat to Ukraine's LGBTQ+ community."
Zelensky, a former comedian, assumed office in 2019. Among other things, he supports the legalization of prostitution and gambling as well as the free distribution of medical cannabis. Media outlets have reported that Zelensky initially seemed to support LGBTQ+ rights but has failed to clarify his stance.
The full letter is at quigley.house.gov/sites/quigley.house.gov/files/Letter%20to%20President%20Biden%20-%20LGBTQ%20Rights%20in%20Ukraine%20-%20Final%20signed.pdf .