In a move that could give Ukrainians access to visa-free travel to the European Union, Ukraine’s parliament passed a law Thursday that bans workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, local media reported. Members of parliament had failed to pass the law in previous attempts over fears that it would lead to same-sex marriage.
“I hear some fake information which says that there may be same-sex marriages in Ukraine,” said the parliament’s speaker, Volodymyr Groysman, according to the BBC. “God forbid, this will ever happen. We will never support this.”
The bill has been hotly debated with some members of parliament objecting to certain language, including “sexual orientation.” Instead, they would prefer to soften the terminology to “gender and relations to gender,” local newspaper the Kyiv Post reported.
The discrimination law was passed with the approval of 234 members of parliament. The bill is part of group of 10 laws, including anti-corruption laws, which need to be passed by Ukraine’s parliament in order to pave the way for visa-free travel to the EU. The law, which also targets political and religious discrimination, was passed in its third attempt.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko tweeted that the law’s passage would remove Soviet era discrimination laws but would not undermine family values in Ukraine.
ПП: Україна виривається з кайданів дискримінації радянського минулого. А сімейні цінності непорушні.
— Петро Порошенко (@poroshenko) November 12, 2015
Lawmakers stood firm Thursday saying the bill would not lead to more rights for same-sex couples in the former Soviet country. Ukraine decriminalized homosexuality in 1992, but hostility and prejudice remains against LGBT people with a pride parade attacked over the summer.
Ukraine’s government has been pushing the country westward, toward the EU, ever since the revolution that overthrew former President Victor Yanukovych in February 2014. Yanukovych had failed to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, sparking protests.
Officials from the EU were scheduled to meet in two weeks to discuss whether or not Ukraine had met the conditions for visa-free travel status. The EU’s Schengen zone allows visa-free and passport-free travel to over 400 million people. If Ukraine is admitted, travel could begin next year.