Albania's right-wing Democratic Party has announced it is backing a gay marriage bill to be introduced in the fall, the BBC reported.

In making the announcement Thursday, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said discrimination in modern Albania must end.

“A law that could provoke debates and reactions aims to put an end to discrimination and will allow civil unions between same-sex persons,” Berisha said in a statement.

With a predominantly Muslim population and no visible gay and lesbian community, Albania remains one of the most conservative countries in Europe. Still, leaders managed to decriminalize being gay in 1995.

Berisha, considered a conservative, acknowledged the legislation would face difficult opposition from religious groups. The country also has a large Catholic and Orthodox Christian population.

“We will firmly oppose that law,” Islamic leader Selim Muca told the AFP.

Pope Benedict vehemently opposes laws granting gays and lesbians the right to marry.

Albania formally applied for European Union membership in April, just weeks before sweeping national elections. Recognizing gay and lesbian unions puts the country more in line with European standards of civil rights.

Berisha was the first non-communist president to be elected in the Balkan state since World War II. He served from 1992 to 1997, and assumed the post of prime minister in 2005.