Kosovo Celebrates Second Gay Pride Under Heavy Security

LGBTQ rights opponents blasted the event as a "parade of shame."

PRISTINA, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people turned out on Wednesday for Kosovo’s second Gay Pride parade under heavy police escort after a party that espouses Islamic values urged the government to scrap the event.

Participants waving rainbow flags marched in bright autumn sunshine in the rally - whose motto is “In the name of freedom” - from the main government building in the capital Pristina to a central square where they danced, embraced and kissed.

Kosovo deployed special police units to protect the marchers but no incidents were reported. The former Serbian province, which declared independence in 2008, is 90 percent Muslim and, like much of the Balkan region, socially conservative.

“We call on state institutions not to deny our identity,” Lendi Mustafa, one of the organizers and who is transgender, told the crowd. “Today we demand freedom for people who have no possibility of escaping the pressure of family and society.”

A Serbian gay activist, Aleskandar Savic expressed solidarity with the Kosovo marchers.

“We all fight for the same goals, we share the same values so it is logical that despite our different ethnic background we support each other,” Savic, from Belgrade Pride, told Reuters.

On Tuesday, Fjala (Word), a political party that fights for the rights of Muslims, said the Gay Pride event was “a parade of shame,” and tried unsuccessfully to have it canceled.

Some rights activists say Kosovo should allow same-sex marriage. At present the constitution says “everyone enjoys the right to marry” but family law also states that those who marry should not be of the same sex.

Commenting on Wednesday’s Gay Pride parade, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said: “Our constitution guarantees individual freedom for all.”

“LGBT and Pride Week will always have institutional support, to be free and secure to express their orientation,” Haradinaj said in his Facebook page.

The European Union, which Kosovo hopes to join one day, has said fear remains widespread in the country’s gay community. (Reporting by Fatos Bytyci Editing by Gareth Jones)