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Ukraine Church leaders reject constitutional move on same-sex rights

Catholic Priest in Ukraine (PA)

Ukrainian Church leaders condemned plans to permit same-sex partnerships under a series of constitutional reforms.

The Ukrainian parliament has been debating the issue of same-sex partnerships while plans call for adopting the amendments in autumn.

The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, a group of 19 churches and faiths including Catholics and Orthodox, have issued a letter in response to the amendments.

Yesterday, the council said in their letter: “These provisions threaten to plunge the Ukrainian state into the abyss of immorality and sin, to destroy the family as the basic social institution and popularise relationships between persons of the same sex which are unnatural for human beings.”

“In its appeals, our council has stressed the need to incorporate, in one way or another, principles of identity and human relations which are traditional for Ukrainian citizens,” the council said.

The amendments were drafted as pro-Russia rebels continued to hold the eastern region of the country and also have been criticised by Russia for allegedly failing to include enough autonomy for the separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as outlined in a February cease-fire agreement.

A Soviet-era ban on homosexual activity was lifted when Ukraine regained independence in 1991, although gays and lesbians complain of widespread discrimination and severe harassment in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Meanwhile, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church also criticised the amendments and said the drafting commission, appointed by Poroshenko, had “rejected all warnings” by churches and submitted “opposite proposals” instead.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych told parliament chairman Volodymyr Groysman in a July 16 letter said: “References to European experience are irrelevant, because the European Union has opposing views about anti-discrimination legislation, marriage and family, and the legal opportunities for sexual minorities.”

“Poland, Croatia, Hungary and Italy, in particular, demonstrate their commitment to the traditional family and moral values as members of the European Union.”

Groysman said to a European Parliament delegation yesterday, that the amendments, currently under review by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, would “start Ukraine’s transformation from a post-Soviet centralised state into a European democratic country.”

However, in their letter, Church leaders said legalising same-sex partnerships would be “unacceptable to the moral health of society and its natural development,” adding that they hoped to explain their concerns in fresh talks with Poroshenko.

The country’s 1991 constitution describes marriage as the voluntary union of a man and woman, and offers no recognition of same-sex relationships.

Opinion polls have shown little public support for expanded same-sex freedoms, and 25 gay activists were arrested during a brief June 6 gay pride parade in Kiev even though the parade was defended by Poroshenko.