Lawmakers have rejected legislation that would have made Kosovo the first Muslim-majority country in the world to legalise same-sex civil unions.
Kosovo wants to join the European Union, and the bid to introduce same-sex marriage was part of modernising efforts by prime minister Albin Kurti’s government, which also tried to introduce other rights for minorities and business reforms
But after hours of debate, just 28 out of MPs out of 120 voted in favour of the motion with some members of Kurti’s Vetevendosje party voting against it, according to Euractiv. Many against the draft code cited religious beliefs and “family values”.
Vetevendosje representative Labinote Demi-Murtezi said during the debate that she only “sees as acceptable the marriage of persons of opposite sex”.
She added: “Any connection outside of this combination is considered depravity and moral degeneration.”
LGBT+ and human rights groups were devastated by the news, and protesters took to the streets of Kosovo’s capital Pristina on Thursday (17 March).
According to Balkan Insight, they chanted, “homophobes, you have no place in parliament” and “love is resistance; we also are part of the family”.
After the legalisation of civil unions was snubbed, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Kurti, as well as Kosovo’s president Vjosa Osmani and minister of justice Albulena Haxhiu, urging them to go further and push for full marriage equality.
“We believe that extending marriage to same-sex couples is the most rights-respecting option for Kosovo to pursue,” the human rights group wrote.
“Partnership recognition is a step forward – any protection is better than none – but civil union is unlikely to protect people’s rights to the same extent as equal marriage, and indeed, can signal continued inequality…
“We hope that the Kosovo government will work to ensure that same-sex couples have the same rights as other couples, and to eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in family law.”