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article imageAlbania Preparing to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

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By Chris Dade     Jul 31, 2009 in World
In a move that has taken many by surprise, the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has confirmed that his government wishes to legalize same-sex marriage.
Homosexuality remained illegal in Albania as recently as 1995. But now the country of some four million people that is found in Southeastern Europe is preparing to introduce legislation that many of the supposedly more liberal governments in Europe have yet to embrace.
For over 40 years, from November 1944 to April 1985, Enver Hoxha was the Communist leader of Albania and led a nation that was officially atheist. After Hoxha's death in 1985, and as the country started to reengage with the outside world and reform its internal structures, so too did the people of Albania begin to rediscover their religion.
And it is the leaders of the majority Muslim community and their counterparts in the Roman Catholic community who the BBC reports are most "vehement" in their opposition to the legislation, that has been formulated by Mr Berisha's ruling Democratic Party and will go before the country's parliament in the fall for their approval or otherwise.
Deemed to be something of a conservative leader in a deeply conservative country, and someone who is a great advocate of "family values", Mr Berisha has nevertheless taken a strong line on the need for Albania to adopt laws that aim to fight the discrimination that many members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community still encounter.
Indeed as Genci Terpo, a lawyer based in the Albanian capital Tirana who works with the Albanian Human Rights Group (AHRG), has previously told Balkan Insight many within the LGBT community still choose to keep their sexuality a secret:The attitudes toward homosexuality have not changed much, and they have to protect themselves. It’s not that now, there is any real difference to what we have seen before. They continue to be subjected to discrimination in all walks of life, and that includes state institutions
He added that the homosexual community in Tirana was estimated at 3,500, that in comparison to a total population in the nation's capital of at least 700,000 people.
Albania has aspirations to join the European Union (EU) and adopting the legislation that the Prime Minister and his party have proposed would, according to Mr Berisha, help ensure the country complies with the anti-discrimination laws to which EU members must adhere.
Still the passage of the law remains uncertain and Goran Miletic, who works on LGBT issues from his office in the Serbian capital Belgrade, is one who recognizes that fact. Even so he considers it significant that the matter is even under consideration, saying:It is encouraging for the LGBT community in Albania, bearing in mind that they are not visible comparing to some other Balkan states like Serbia, like Macedonia or Croatia
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