- Prime minister says equality is ‘the cornerstone of human and European values’.
The tiny country of Montenegro has voted to legalize same-sex civil partnerships in a first for the Balkans region.
The country, which has a population of just 622,000 is the first outside Western Europe and the European Union to provide legal recognition for same-sex couples.
The vote in the one-chamber Parliament of Montenegro saw 42 votes out of 81 members voting in favor. Just five voted against with some opponents abstaining.
It comes as Montenegro is in advanced negotiations to join the European Union. Its leaders welcomed the decision.
President Milo Dukanovic tweeted:
‘[Montenegro] is one step closer to joining the most developed world democracies! By adopting the Law on Same-Sex Life Partnership, [Montenegro] is for the first time regulating the legal rights of same-sex couples!’
He added it was ‘a confirmation that our society is maturing, accepting and living the differences. Born free and equal in dignity and rights!’
Meanwhile Prime Minister Dusko Markovic tweeted: ‘I welcome the adoption of the Law on Same-Sex Life Partnership in [Montenegro] Parliament!
‘A great step in the right direction for MNE society, its democratic maturity and integration processes. Equality and same rights for all are the cornerstone of human and European values.
‘I want to thank the #LGBTIQ community for dialogue and contribution. There can be no room for discrimination based on sexual orientation in a European #Montenegro.’
‘It’s a big day for all of us’
Markovic had promised LGBT+ people they could have some of the rights of marriage as long ago as 2012 when he was deputy prime minister.
At the time, he said this was necessary to prepare the country for membership of the European Union.
Politicians tried to move forward with similar legislation last year.
But The Serbian Orthodox Church and opposition party the Democratic Front fought the proposal. They claimed it would ‘wreck’ Christian values and family life in Montenegro. In the end, a vote in parliament in July last year failed.
Perhaps as a result, LGBT+ campaigners were taken by surprise by yesterday’s success.
John Barac, executive director of LGBT Forum Progress, said: ‘I honestly wasn’t expecting it. It’s really extraordinary, it’s a big day for all of us.’
President Dukanovic now has to sign the law. And the first civil partnerships will be in a year’s time after the government has finalized regulations and trained its officials.
Meanwhile, the country has also promised anti-discrimination training for police and health workers. The measures are part of an LGBT+ ‘action plan’ for 2019 to 2023.
Montenegro held its first Pride in 2013. While the country now ranks in the middle of European league tables on LGBT+ rights, some argue its conservative society has not kept up with legal progress.