NICOSIA, Cyprus – Several thousand people turned out for Cyprus’ first gay pride parade on Saturday, exceeding the expectations of organizers who said the event’s popularity shows that Cypriots are shedding their conservative attitudes.
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 said.
Gavrielides urged lawmakers to pass legislation to advance gay rights, including a civil partnership law. Cyprus, a European Union member and a largely Orthodox Christian society, decriminalized homosexuality a dozen years ago.
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.
A small group of Orthodox Christian protesters, some holding crosses, staged a demonstration nearby to denounce the event they called “shameful.”
The Cyprus Orthodox Christian church condemned the parade.