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Albania: 2 Women Defy Norms with Rooftop Wedding

Photo : Reuters

Tirana, Albania - At dusk on Sunday, May 19, friends gathered on the rooftop of the mayor's office in central Tirana to witness a remarkable event. Alba Ahmetaj and Edlira Mara, a lesbian couple, kissed, exchanged rings, and got married. Their union, unrecognized by the state due to Albanian laws that do not acknowledge same-sex civil unions, was an extraordinary act of love and defiance in a country where such ceremonies are rare and controversial.

Alba and Edlira's everyday life is similar to that of many families. They have twin daughters, whom they care for tenderly, brushing their hair before school and engaging in playful fights on weekends. They have been together for 14 years, a bond they have marked with matching shoulder tattoos. However, their journey to be recognized as a legitimate family has been fraught with challenges.

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Their wedding, conducted by two British pastors, took place in a country where marriage equality is still a distant dream. The ceremony was a heartfelt cry for equality and love, marking what they believe to be the first same-sex wedding in the Muslim-majority Balkan country. Despite the lack of legal recognition, the couple considered it a real marriage.

The ceremony faced significant backlash from Albania's political right and religious communities. When news of their wedding plans became public, social media erupted with thousands of threatening comments. On the day of the wedding, police officers were stationed at the building to ensure the couple's safety. The political climate further intensified two days later when opposition parties, protesting against the mayor over separate corruption allegations, also attacked Alba and Edlira, accusing them of undermining family values.

The couple's struggle for recognition has been ongoing. When their daughters were born three years ago, Alba and Edlira sought to be registered as joint parents. However, Albanian law only allowed the children to be registered under Edlira, the biological mother. This legal obstacle highlighted the deep-seated patriarchal and homophobic attitudes within Albanian society. Alba remarked on the lack of tolerance, pointing to the hateful comments on social media as evidence.

Despite these challenges, the wedding was a moment of joy and hope. The couple prepared for their big day by blowing up balloons in their apartment. Friends helped them into their white wedding dresses, and they walked hand-in-hand with their daughters towards the altar, surrounded by friends who showered them with white rose petals. The backdrop of downtown Tirana and the mist-covered mountains added to the beauty of the occasion.

Reflecting on their fight for equality, Edlira acknowledged the uphill battle they face, saying, "We are fighting against 90 percent of the population." However, both Alba and Edlira remain determined to change societal attitudes and pave the way for future generations.

Their wedding on the rooftop of the mayor's office was not just a personal milestone but a bold statement against discrimination and a beacon of hope for LGBTQ+ rights in Albania and beyond.

June 3, 2024 4:59 p.m. 727

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