One of the organizers, ACCEPT-LGBT Cyprus President Costas Gavrielides, said he was overwhelmed because he had expected just a few hundred people to attend the event in the heart of the capital, Nicosia.
“This proves that Cypriot society has progressed much more than politicians say,” Gavrielides told The Associated Press.
Gavrielides urged lawmakers to pass legislation to further gay rights, including a civil partnership law. Cyprus, a European Union member and a largely Orthodox Christian society, decriminalized homosexuality a dozen years ago, but activists say the nation has much to improve on in terms of gay rights.
Among the speakers addressing the crowd waving rainbow flags and carrying placards reading “equal rights to all” was Cypriot gay rights pioneer Alecos Modinos. Modinos’ court battles in the 1990s forced the government to repeal anti-gay laws — a vestige from the east Mediterranean island nation’s British colonial past.
“We hope Cyprus becomes a European Union member country that respects rights not only in words, but in deeds as well,” Modinos said.
A small group of Orthodox Christian protesters, some holding crosses, staged a demonstration nearby to denounce the event they called “shameful.” Scuffles broke out between protesters and the police as they tried to break a police cordon and approach the parade.
The Cyprus Orthodox Christian church condemned the parade and issued a strongly worded statement saying it considers homosexuality “the human being’s fall from grace and an illness and not a natural way of life or choice.”
Earlier Saturday, another Orthodox Christian group petitioned Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to oppose any legislation that would allow gay couples to adopt children.
More Nation & World Headlines
Benghazi case focuses attention on U.S. interrogation strategy Sanders, in Iowa, seeks to match Obama’s 2008 coup Clinton reaffirms she didn’t send, receive classified emails What If Martin O’Malley or Bernie Sanders disobey the DNC on debates? Italy: At least 40 migrants dead at sea, 320 others rescued Camper deaths, presence of plague darken summer at Yosemite High housing costs raise an obstacle for women fleeing abuse Iraq officials: Bombs in and around Baghdad kill 22 people
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.