A gay rights law passed in Albania yesterday will outlaw homophobic discrimination but will not allow same-sex marriage.

The law gives protection to citizens against discrimination on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

It came to be known primarily as a gay rights law after Prime minister Sali Berisha said in July he supported gay marriage.

Until 1995, homosexuality carried a ten-year prison sentence in Albania. The country is hoping to join the European Union.

Despite the lack of a provision for gay marriage, the law was welcomed by Albanian gay rights groups.

A statement from Alliance Against Discrimination given to the Straits Times described it as “a victory for democracy and for human rights for all Albanians”.

Lilit Poghosyan from the gay group ILGA-Europe, said: “We hope that the new Albanian anti-discrimination will be a good example for other countries in the region aspiring to join the European Union and have not yet adopted similar laws.

Albania is deeply secular but is also one of only two countries in Europe which is predominantly Muslim. Religion was banned during the Communist rule between 1944 and 1990.