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Two women held a symbolic wedding in Kharkiv on Aug. 25 to protest the lack of marriage equality for same-sex partners in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian state does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.
Alina Shevchenko, a member of Ukraine's armed forces since 2015, married her partner Stanislava Petlytsia, an LGBTQ+ activist, as part of a performance for Kharkiv Pride.
Since the start of the full-scale invasion, the issue has become urgent for same-sex couples where one or both partners are in the military.
Without the state recognition of a marriage or civil partnership, partners of those serving in the military do not have the right to receive official information on whether their partner has been wounded, captured, or killed on the battlefield.
In case of injury, the partner of the fighter is not allowed to visit them in intensive care or make decisions on their behalf. An unrecognized partner cannot be recognized as the veteran's guardian in case they become incapacitated.
In case of death, the partner has no right to carry out the last will and testament of the deceased. If both die, they have no right to be buried together in a family grave.
The lack of marriage equality also impacts life at home, as same-sex couples are not allowed to jointly own property, and one partner cannot inherit property or receive state support after the death of a partner.
The performance of Shevchenko and Petlytsia began at the Kharkiv Civil Registry Office. The ceremony followed Ukrainian wedding traditions, such as sprinkling petals, rice, and coins, throwing a bouquet, and taking photos with their guests.
Shevchenko, who holds the military rank of captain, said that other soldiers she fights with are aware of her sexual orientation and knew about her engagement plans.
"I probably already bragged about the ring and my status to everyone," she told LGBT Military, a Ukrainian NGO that advocates for gay members of the Armed Forces.
"It is very important for us to have the same legal protection for our family and security guarantees from the state as heterosexual couples have," Shevchenko said.
Lawmaker Inna Sovsun, who is part of the Holos political faction, submitted a draft law in March to legalize same-sex partnerships.
"A few months ago, Ukrainians called on the president to legalize same-sex marriage in a petition," and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky instructed the government to look into legalizing same-sex unions, she explained on Twitter on March 7.
"But the government is in no hurry, so I decided to submit a draft law to speed up this process," the MP said.
According to Sovsun, 56% of Ukrainians agree that LGBT couples should have the right to civil partnerships. She added that homophobia in Ukrainian society was a remnant of Russian and Soviet influence that needed to be discarded.