TIRANA, Albania — The Albanian Prime Minister, in a historic first for this tiny Balkan nation, met Monday with two LGBT activists to express his full support for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.
Dr. Sali Berisha, who is seeking a third term as Prime Minister, told Xheni Karaj from the Aleanca Kunder Diskriminimit LGBT (Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination) and Kristi Pinderi, Executive Director of United for the rights of LGBT in Albania, that he appreciated the hard work their organizations had performed to advance LGBT rights in the country.
Berisha himself announced in July 2009 that he would support the recognition of same-gender civil marriages.
Albania decriminalized homosexuality in 1995, and LGBT persons in Albania are protected under a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation passed in February 2010 by the Albanian Parliament.
The law banned discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in all areas, including employment, the provision of goods and services, education, health care, and housing.
Albania is one of few European countries to explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The law also exceeds European Union minimum standards, which require that employers refrain from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Even with those protections codified in law, Albania is still considered the most homophobic European country; 53 percent of respondents in a March 2013 European Social Survey of 1200 Albanians said they are opposed to homosexuality.
Some prominent Albanian officials have previously expressed their opposition to LGBT rights such as when in 2010, the Albanian Deputy Commissioner for Labour, Social Affairs and Health, Tritan Shehu, declared that “homosexuality should be treated by medical staff as hormonal disorder, as well as psychological.”
More recently, Vice-Minister of Defense Ekrem Spahiu said in December of 2012, “What remains to be done is to beat them up with a stick. If you don’t understand this, I can explain it: to beat them with a rubber stick.”
Berisha criticized Spahiu in today’s meeting with Karaj and Pinderi saying, “This kind of declaration is unacceptable not only for a vice minister but for everyone.”
“Every politician in this country should have a public stance on LGBT issues and should face them without fear or complexes,” Berisha said.
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