Albania’s religious leaders said Thursday that they rejected a government proposal to extend marriage rights to gay couples.
Speaking to local daily Gazeta Shqiptare, the head of Albania’s Muslim community, Shkelqim Muca, rejected the proposal, arguing that, in his community’s view, gay marriage was unacceptable.
“We are absolutely against it as a community,” said Muca, adding that a relationship between two gay people could not be consecrated through marriage. “This is a sham not a law,” he added.
The Catholic Church was also critical of the proposal. Spokesperson Father Henry Weldcamp said the church’s position is that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the government would push for a law that recognises homosexual marriages.
“This is an important law against discrimination,” said Berisha, who often stresses the importance of family values.
The prime minister said that the law had already been put to parliament and that MPs should treat it seriously because it provides a legal basis against discrimination, bringing the country into line with a framework already approved by the EU, which Albania aspires to join.
While the Albanian parliament decriminalised homosexual relations in 1995, more than a decade later, gays and lesbians are still heavily stigmatised, and a majority live clandestine lives, fearing that if their sexual orientation is discovered their safety will be endangered.
Human rights reports on Albania concede that ingrained attitudes among the public leave Albanian gays and lesbians on the fringes of society. AHRG reports that Albanian homosexuals face “intolerance, physical and psychological violence – often from the police – and discrimination in the workplace.”