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Recognition…Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday responded to a citizens’ petition calling for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ukraine and raised the prospect of “registered partnerships,” but did not reject the constitutional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman during the war be changed.

Mr Zelensky responded after the petition garnered support from more than 25,000 Ukrainians. Ukraine does not recognize marriage law for same-sex couples, nor does it have a law allowing them to enter into registered partnerships. Calls to give these couples equal rights have grown in part because of the sacrifices made by LGBTQ soldiers helping the country fight Russia’s brutal invasion.

According to Ukrainian Defense Ministry regulations, the military must notify the parents and spouse or other close relatives of a killed soldier. However, these rules do not apply to same-sex couples who cannot legally marry.

In Ukraine, same-sex couples do not automatically have the right to visit a partner in hospital, share property, care for a deceased partner’s children, claim the body of a partner killed in war, or receive a death benefit from the state.

The petition, which calls on Mr Zelensky to support marriage law for same-sex couples, was initiated by Anastasia Sovenko, 24, an English teacher from Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine who identifies as bisexual.

She had said that after reading an article about straight soldiers rushing to marry their partners before going to war, she was sad, angry and frustrated that LGBTQ soldiers didn’t have that option.

Mr Zelensky wrote in his response that democratic societies are measured in part by how they defend equal rights for all citizens and that “every citizen is an indivisible part of civil society for whom all rights and freedoms are established in the Constitution of Ukraine Extended. “

“All human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights,” he wrote.

However, Mr Zelensky noted that Ukraine’s constitution states that “marriage is based on the free consent of a woman and a man,” and said the document could not be changed during a state of martial law, which he said declared in Februaryafter Russia invaded.

At the same time, according to Zelensky, the government “has worked out options for a solution regarding the legalization of registered partnerships in Ukraine as part of the work to affirm and protect human rights and freedoms.”

He added that he had asked Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal to consider the issue raised in the petition and to report back with his findings.

“The response is more positive than it could have been,” wrote Inna Sovsun, an opposition MP for the liberal and pro-LGBTQ rights Holos party, on Facebook. “But at the same time – not clearly enough.”

Since constitutional changes are now impossible, civil partnerships are an “acceptable transitional alternative”.

“But where are the options the President is talking about?” Ms. Sovsun wrote. “Why are they not put up for discussion and not presented to Parliament?”

Ms Sovenko, the author of the petition, said she was glad that Mr Zelensky had mentioned registered civil partnerships for same-sex couples.

“This is the beginning,” she wrote in an email. She said she was “full of hope” that after the war the government would give same-sex couples the opportunity to marry.

“I’m proud that the reaction wasn’t all negative,” she said, “and I’m really glad that happened.”

The pursuit of same-sex marriage faces significant resistance in a country where Eastern Orthodox religion and traditional sexual mores are deeply embedded in the social fabric. Opponents include some Conservative members of Mr Selensky’s own party, who have called for a law imposing fines for “gay propaganda”.

But gay rights advocates in Ukraine hope Mr Zelensky will eventually support same-sex marriage rights and help the country brush up on its liberal credentials as it seeks to join the European Union and draw closer to the West.

Maham Javaid and Dan Bilefsky contributed reporting. David Kurkovskiy contributed a translation.

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