The headline to this piece in VZGLIAD reads: “Homosexuals have driven a wedge through the Ukrainian government.” The piece is written by a reporter named Yury Zainashev, and the lede is that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenuk wants to pass, within a year, a gay rights legal package, including civil unions; whereas the rest of the Ukrainian government does not want to touch this issue with a 10-foot pole.
Ukraine: Special Case Or Basket Case?
Yatsenuk would like to see his country aligned legally, as far as family law is concerned, with the countries of Western Europe as well as the English-speaking world (North America, Great Britain, Australia) — for the purposes of brevity I will henceforth just call all these types of countries “The West”. In the West civil-union legislation is common. This legislation generally enjoys the support of the majority of the populations. These countries all went through a process, over the decades, of increasing tolerance and even acceptance, not just of human homosexuality, but also of what used to be called “unwed mothers”, single-motherhood and that living arrangement which used to be called “common-law marriage”. The next step was to develop further legal mechanisms to regulate civil unions, marriage, divorce, and division of property, especially among non-traditional (i.e., “gay”) couples.
In the rest of the world, however, this process of acceptance and legalization, especially of homosexual unions, has not taken place. Therefore, attempts to impose Western cultural and legal norms are usually resisted by a traditionally-minded population, who regard this as a form of “missionary imposition” upon their native cultures.
The Ukraine, a traditional Slavic type society, is considered a special case. Because, just like Gruzia as well, the country was coveted by the EU/NATO for geo-strategic reasons. The Ukrainians, like the Gruzians, were promised that they could be full-fledged Europeans EXCEPT FOR this one little thing, which they don’t approve of. They were promised that integration into the EU would not force them to accept gay marriages. And indeed Ukraine could have enjoyed this special cultural and legal waiver IF it had been found more pleasing to the EU leadership.
Some cynics see Yatsenuk’s earnestness in proposing this legislation at the current time, as a simple flailing around, an attempt to curry favor and win back the good disposition of those who put him in power. Especially at this particular time, when the Netherlands Referendum looks to be disappointing news for the Ukrainian government.
The Bread and Butter of Human Relationships
Just yesterday a package was laid out for the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers to peruse, which included legalization of civil unions, both same-sex and opposite-sex. The proposed legislation takes into account such issues as property rights, inheritance, right of a partner to the other partner’s medical insurance and pension, the right to not have to testify in court against a “spouse”, i.e., the usual bread-and-butter issues. The projected date for the implementation of this legislation is the second Quarter of 2017. [yalensis: I double-checked on google, and the Ukraine uses a Fiscal Year which is identical to the Calendar Year. Hence, Q2 will be Apr-Jun 2017.] The proposed legislation also goes one step further, and promises to allow transgender people [those are the ones who had surgery to change gender] to adopt children. With the latter point coming into effect in Q4 of 2017.
But Valery Patskan (member of the “Poroshenko Bloc” in government), who is the First Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Supreme Rada on Human Rights, National Minority Rights and International Relations — declared to the press that the legalization of same-sex civil unions is NOT on the table and could lead to a split in society.
Patskan is worried that same-sex legislation could lead to street protests and will wound the feelings of various religious confessions.
Patskan went on to dither, that some of the points in the legislation could very well be passed – the more bread-and-butter ones. Provided they are presented in such a way as not to incite and anger the public. Patskan also declared, to the surprise of some, that the EU never actually demanded of Ukraine that they pass such legislation, as a condition for EU membership.
Vitaly Kulik, Director of a Kiev think tank, confirmed to the VZGLIAD reporter, that the EU never demanded any of this from the Ukraine. It only “recommended” that such legislation be passed, but did not require it. On the other hand, this legislation actually WAS required as part of last November’s packet for the non-visa regime. But that is almost moot, according to Kulik, since the Ukraine never complied with a whole series of other measures included in that particular packet.
Kulik goes on to say, that this is an issue of “tolerance”, which Ukrainian society is not yet ready for, but can be prepared for, over time. Kulik’s proposed compromise plan is to allow homosexual couples a simplified process called “civil union”. This will allow division of property and the regular bread-and-butter issues, without infringing on what society considers to be the proper institution of marriage.
Opponents of the Legislation
Last November, the Ukrainian Parliament and President proposed legal amendments prohibiting employment discrimination against sexual minorities. During the debate in the Rada, arguments and fist-fights broke out. The legislation could never pull enough votes to pass, until Speaker Vladimir Hroisman promised the legislators that the new laws would NEVER lead to gay marriage. Because that was their biggest fear.
Apprehensions were also voiced by religious leaders such as Onufry, the “Mitropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine”, on behalf of the Moscow Patriarchate. Onufry warned that the non-discrimination legislation was just the first step on a slippery slope that would lead to propaganda of the homosexual lifestyle, and to the eventual legalization of gay marriage.
But What Will the Dutch Think?
To add to the ferment, Eurocommissioner Jean-Claude Juncker unexpectedly announced, just a few days ago, that the Ukraine was not going to get into EU or NATO, certainly not within the next 20-25 years. In other words: NEVER. This had to do, no doubt, with public agitation in the Netherlands surrounding the Referendum for Kiev-EU Association Agreement.
Again, cynics postulate that Yatsenuk’s latest efforts to pass the legislation might be geared to public opinion in the Netherlands. The assumption being that Dutch citizens will look more favorably on the Ukrainians if they adopt such legislation (in Holland, gay marriage enjoys a wide popularity), and maybe even change their minds about accepting the new kid on the block. Evgeny Balitsky, a Deputy from the Opposition Bloc, told the VZGLIAD reporter bitterly: “I don’t know about Patskan’s sexual orientation, but I do know for a fact, that there is this tendency among us to want to please everybody and anybody who can help. And I don’t mean help the Ukraine, I mean help the government, and the President, to keep their jobs. Today they will jump for Holland, and for anyone else.” Balitsky went on to doubt that the citizens of Holland will change their minds about the Ukraine: “I don’t think that my country — my beloved country — is of use to anyone today, in this pitiful state that we are in. Unfortunately! We are not needed by anyone, barely alive, impoverished and degraded, to them we are just a source of cheap resources.”
And Balitsky concluded: “As the father of three sons, I see no future in a country whose government engages in such cheap tricks. As Slavic countries, we don’t need to adopt this example from Europe. I honestly do not wish to offend anyone, but at this time we have so many other much more serious issues to deal with, and yet we are preoccupied with this nonsense. Our society has no problem with homosexuality, as such. This (legislation) is simply an attempt to distract attention away from the real problems brought about by our current government. A government which has dragged the people down to abject poverty, forced us into a conflict with our own neighbors, and introduced a wedge into society.”