Albanian Prime Minister, Dr. Sali Berisha met with local gay activists expressing his full support for LGBT rights in the country.
In the first ever meeting of its kind, Berisha, of the right-wing Democratic Party, welcomed today (22 April) two Albanian LGBT activists, Xheni Karaj and Kristi Pinderi.
He is the first Albanian PM to do so, after being the first Albanian politician to have declared himself in favor of same sex marriage, almost 4 years ago, after the elections of 2009.
During the meeting he expressed his full support for the LGBT movement in Albania stating: ‘I have carefully followed all your actions and I think that you have, so far, responded in a very good way whenever that has been necessary’.
He added ‘it is important to believe in the cause you represent. […] To tell you the truth, [in the beginning] I have felt sorry when the debate about LGBT issues was going on and no one from the community was able to go publicly and defend the cause.
‘So, I really appreciate that you both have appeared on television and have brought the LGBT issues to public attention’.
Berisha also condemned a previous declaration of the vice-minister of defense Ekrem Spahiu who said gays should be beaten up with a stick.
The prime minister said: ‘This kind of declaration is unacceptable not only for a vice minister but for everyone’, adding that every politicians should express their views on LGBT rights without fear.
The two activists asked the prime minister about the recently proposed amendments of the penal code, which include the criminalization of hate speech and intentional harassment towards LGBT people through digital technology.
Berisha stated that he is carefully following the procedures and discussions for these amendments and added that he is fully supporting them.
Karaj and Pinderi stressed the need to include civil society in discussing the work of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner institution.
They emphasized the gay rights groups, Aleanca LGBT and Pro LGBT are unsatisfied with institute’s performance.
Berisha said that his government will pursue to enforce Albania’s progressive anti-discrimination law.
Pinderi and Karaj also asked the prime minister if he is still committed to marriage equality, or at least in favor of gay civil unions as he stated four years ago.
Berisha gave his cautious support: ‘I don’t see any wrongdoing if they want to live with each other.
‘But don’t forget, that the job to breaking the ice [about gay marriage in Albanian] society is a job that will … need … time.
‘But what is important is that you are on the right track’, advising a non-confrontational attitude.
The prime minister also guaranteed that LGBT rights could be more political and visible through events like Tirana Pride 2013, in September and public events during the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 may.