June 21. 2024. 5:12

The Daily

Read the World Today

Albania witnesses first same-sex religious marriage as LGBT couple challenge family code

Two Albanian women have become the first couple in the country’s history to challenge the laws on marriage under an article of the constitution while also taking part in a religious marriage ceremony, as the EU Ambassador to Albania, Silvio Gonzato, says Albania needs to consider the equality of citizens before the law.

Alba Ahmetaj and Edlira Mara filed an application for legal marriage at their local municipality office on Friday (17 May). The Albanian family code defines marriage as between a man and a woman. However, Article 53 of the Constitution states that “Everyone has the right to marry and have a family.”

Mara argued on her Facebook account that the Family Code violates the Consitution, “discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and in violation of constitutional guarantees against any other couple.”

“Our request for a declaration of marriage symbolizes the first link in a long and difficult, but above all just, struggle. We are determined to follow the legal path and respect the procedures and institutions of our country, challenging the discriminatory content of the Family Code, to seek the recognition of our right to marry, equally with every other couple in Albania,” she wrote.

The application will now be processed by the Civil Registry, which will decide if and when the marriage can take place.

On Sunday, 19 May, the couple took part in a religious marriage on the rooftop of the Municipality of Tirana, the seat of Mayor Erion Veliaj.

The couple wrote that they chose the location as it is “a public environment available for use by the taxpayers of the city for various events. We will be married before God and in the presence of our best friends.”

However, the couple was unable to find a local priest to marry them, so they invited two from the United Kingdom, who agreed to travel especially for the occasion.

The couple asked the public to refrain from seeing the move as a provocation and instead regard it as a manifestation of their love, will, and commitment after 15 years together.

Struggle to register daughters

In addition to their fight to get legally married, the couple are also struggling to properly register their twin daughters. The couple welcomed the twins around three years ago via IVF, but they were unable to register the children with Mara and Ahmetaj as the parents.

As Albanian law recognises only a mother and father, the only way to register the girls would be to do so with Mara as a single mother.

In the event that the legal parent dies or becomes seriously ill, the other would have no rights over the children, and they would risk being put into care or even adopted.

The couple took the government to court and lost before filing a case at the High Court. The case is still pending, and the mothers say they are ready to take it to the Strasbourg European Court on Human Rights if necessary.

Albanian society outraged

However, the case has caused significant controversy in Albanian society, which largely considers marriage as between a man and a woman and significantly rejects same-sex relationships and marriage.

A recent survey carried out by Euronews Albania found that 94.2% of people would reject an LGBT family member, 81.1% a child’s teacher, 63.8% a neighbour, and 61% a colleague. A further 86.3% of the population said they had never encountered a member of the LGBT community.

The country’s media has also published articles calling the wedding a “scandal” and criticising Veliaj for allowing the marriage to take place on the municipality’s premises. Similarly, social media has been awash with offensive and hateful comments against the couple.

The couple have also been subject to serious death threats on social media, which have led them to file complaints with local police forces.

When asked whether Albania should allow same-sex marriage following Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s pledge to legalise it, the EU’s Ambassador to Albania, Silvio Gonzato, said it is not part of the EU acquis.

He continued that member states have different approaches, but “I think the fundamental principle is that of non-discrimination. So all citizens are equal before the law.”

“There is definitely progress that needs to be made in that direction,” he said.

(Alice Taylor | Euractiv.com)

Read more with Euractiv

Bulgarian president says Ukraine’s victory over Russia ‘impossible’

Bulgarian president says Ukraine’s victory over Russia ‘impossible’

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has described Ukraine’s victory over Russia as "impossible" and linked the two-year war with Russia to the assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Subscribe now to our newsletter EU Elections Decoded