Ukraine shelves gay rights vote amid protests

The parliament of ex-Soviet Ukraine on Tuesday indefinitely postponed a vote on a bill that would have barred employers from rejecting workers based on their sexual orientation as hundreds of anti-gay activists protested outside.

The European Union-backed legislation had been up for a vote on Tuesday after a strong bid by President Viktor Yanukovych's government -- keen to eventually join the 27-nation bloc -- to get its rights laws in line with Western standards.

But the bill was opposed in parliament by the Communist Party and the nationalist Svoboda group that sees most of its support in Catholic Ukrainian-speaking regions in the west of the country.

The vote on the bill -- which was introduced by the government -- was dropped as deputies sought to avoid another hot-tempered exchange in the notoriously volatile chamber.

Meanwhile, several hundred anti-gay protesters rallied outside the Verkhovna Rada parliament building demanding that the proposed legislation be voted down.

Some carried banners reading "In Defence of Family and Children" and "No to Homosexuality in Ukraine".

The protestors were also rallying against plans by gay rights activists to hold a gay parade in Kiev on May 25.

Anti-gay activists then held a similar rally outside the Kiev mayor's office demanding that the parade be scrapped.

After finishing the rally, they also passed on to the Kiev authorities a petition with around 11,000 signatures in support of their claims.