Respect Equality

Ukrainian Americans and allies fear human rights violations

Story at a glance

  • Ukranian Americans have taken to the streets to show their support amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • In New York City, members of the LGBTQ+ community gathered in front of the Stonewall Inn to add their support for Ukraine.
  • Those that gathered called on the U.S. government to better support Ukraine amid fears that Russian control will result in human rights violations, especially against LGBTQ+ activists and other members of the community.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin shocked the world by ordering troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the last week has been filled with fear and anxiety for many Ukrainians in the United States as military operations have turned into a full-scale invasion.  

Bogdan Globa, an LGBTQ+ rights activist who moved from Ukraine to New York City in 2016, worries constantly about his family and friends’ safety back home. And his fears are made worse by limited communication. Power outages and spotty cell phone coverage mean he can only speak with his mother for a few hours during the day, he said.  

“Each time I call her and hear her voice I think it’s [going to be] the last time,” Globa said to a crowd waving Ukrainian flags and anti-Putin posters outside of The Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riot that served as a watershed moment for the gay rights movement in the United States.  


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


Dozens of LGBTQ+ Ukrainian Americans and allies gathered outside of the historic bar to show their support for Ukrainians amid the ongoing invasion and to call on the U.S. government to do more to stop Russia’s advances and protect the vulnerable.  

Many fear that human rights abuses, particularly against the LGBTQ+ community, will occur if Russia takes control of the country.  

Russia has a history of “political homophobia” and in 2013, the country’s parliament unanimously passed a “gay propxganda” law making it illegal to distribute material in support of LGBT rights and to equate straight relationships with gay ones.  

The government has continued to try to thwart the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the country. In 2021, Russia officially banned same-sex marriage. Earlier this month, Russia’s Justice Ministry filed a lawsuit trying to “liquidate” the Sphere Foundation, the legal entity under which one of the largest LGBT rights groups operates, claiming it did not promote “traditional values.” The lawsuit was ultimately shelved but human rights activists worry the case will be tried again.  

LGBTQ+ activists are persecuted in Russia, something that Violette Matevosian, who was a LGBTQ+ activist in Russia before moving to the United States and attended the gathering outside of Stonewall, has witnessed. Although she is not Ukrainian, she decided to attend the gathering to show her support. “We were persecuted a lot, our people were detained a lot,” she said. “You have no idea how ashamed I am to hold a Russian passport right now.”  

Although there is still work to be done in terms of LGBTQ+ rights in Ukraine, the country has made some strides toward equality. Last year, around 7,000 people took part in the annual March for Equality in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev to support LGBT rights.  

But many fear that if Russia isn’t deterred, that slow-moving progressive movement will be completely squashed.

“That movement is being threatened right now,” said Jeremiah Johnson, a long-time HIV/AIDS activist in the United States who lived in Ukraine during the mid-00s. “If we truly believe that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere then this is the time to stand up and fight against this.”


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

ENTIRE POLICE DEPARTMENT RESIGNS IN MISSOURI

UN CALLS FOR US, OTHERS TO END ‘IMPUNITY’ FOR POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE

RACIAL CONTROVERSY ERUPTS AROUND ROYALS AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE

PRINCIPAL ESCORTED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION AFTER DELIVERING FIERY SPEECH