During her speech in honour of LGBT month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in support of an Albanian man who came out on national television. The man, Klodian Cela, was appearing in the country’s version of Big Brother.
Mr Cela came out on the show back in February of this year, an act that triggered a series of anti-gay protests in his hometown of Lezha, in northern Albania.
Ms Clinton said in her speech that soon after the event, the American Ambassador to Albania, John Withers, “went on television to publicly express support for this man. He visited his hometown and he invited him to an event at our Embassy, conveying to all Albanians that the United States supports his rights and respects his courage”.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Albania in 1995, and in the same month that Mr Cela came out, the Albanian parliament approved a wide-ranging anti-discrimination law that protects the rights of gay men and lesbians.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha had proposed legalising same-sex unions, but this was not included in the bill. Despite this, activists applauded the law as a great step foward for gay rights in Albania.
However, according to BalkanInsight.com, “Human rights reports on Albania concede that ingrained attitudes among the public leave Albanian gays and lesbians on the fringes of society. An Albanian Human Rights Group reports that Albanian homosexuals face ‘intolerance, physical and psychological violence – often from the police – and discrimination in the workplace'”.
After over four decades of communist rule, Albania became a social democracy in 1992. However, the country’s first attempts at democratic and monetary reform led to economic collapse, anarchy and the return of blood feuds. The country is now a parliamentary democracy with a growing economy.