BY ROB SALERNO -  According to a Fox News report, Albania legalized gay marriage in 2009, which must come as a shock to the tiny Adriatic nation that is planning to host its first gay pride rally this coming May.

Albania did discuss passing a gay marriage law in 2009 — and the proposal was even backed by the prime minister. But unfortunately, the measure didn't pass. On the plus side, Albania did pass one of Europe's toughest anti-discrimination laws, which bans discrimination on ground of gender identity. European Union minimum standards are simply that sexual orientation is banned as a ground of discrimination. Albania is a candidate country for membership in the EU.

Actually, that Fox News report deals mostly with the reprehensible comments made by an Albanian legislator when Albania's Pride march was announced. Deputy Defence Minister Ekrem Spahiu (pictured above) said participants in the parade "should be beaten with batons." The prime minister and the EU have condemned the comments and urged Spahiu to apologize.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Serbia, Mladen Obradovic, the leader of the extremist group Obraz, has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for uttering death threats that led to the cancellation of the 2009 Belgrade Pride parade. Obraz had painted graffiti around the capital, saying "Death to gays" and "Blood will flow," in the days leading up to the parade. Obradovic has already been sentenced to two years in prison for inciting violence at the 2010 Belgrade Pride parade. He remains free while appealing both verdicts.

Also, just on the edge of the Balkan peninsula, in a referendum March 25, Slovenians rejected a proposed new family law that would allow gays and lesbians to form registered partnerships that would give them limited adoption rights and many of the same rights as heterosexual couples with regard to inheritance, property and hospital visitation. Conservatives and the Catholic Church marshalled voters to reject the proposed bill after forcing a referendum. On a shockingly low turnout of around 15 percent, Slovenes rejected the bill 55 to 45, despite the fact that the general population widely supported the bill in opinion polls. Slovenia reverts to its communist-era 1976 Family Law and cannot consider a new law for a full year.

Standard marriage equality boilerplate:

In June, Washington will join New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage. Same-sex marriage was also recently passed in Maryland, but it won't take effect until next year. Efforts are under way to force referenda to overturn same-sex marriage in Maryland and Washington before they start. The status of gay marriage in California is currently the subject of appeals to the unconstitutionality of the state's anti-gay-marriage referendum, Prop 8, which will likely end with a decision by the US Supreme Court. Lawmakers are also debating the issue in Illinois. Of course, none of these marriages convey the full benefits of marriage, because the federal Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay marriages and allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Ten countries already allow full marriage equality nationwide: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. Denmark announced plans to legalize same-sex marriage by June. Brazil allows same-sex marriages in theory, through roundabout rulings of its state and federal Supreme Courts, but they've been performed only in some states. Mexico recognizes same-sex marriages performed in Mexico City only.

Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere only. There are ongoing debates about allowing same-sex marriage in Australia, Finland and Uruguay. France's Socialist Party is expected to campaign on the issue in national elections this year.

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