Greek Cypriots hold first gay pride parade

People hold rainbow flags, commonly gay pride flag, as they take part in the first ever Gay Pride parade in Cyprus' capital Nicosia on May 31. AFP Photo

Nicosia held its first Greek Cypriot gay pride parade, 16 years after homosexuality was decriminalized on the Mediterranean island, where the influential Orthodox Church views non-heterosexual relations as sinful.

The march on May 31 left the capital’s Eleftheria (Freedom) Square, with hundreds of waving and cheering people following a car decked with rainbow flags and blaring out music.

Police escorted the marchers, which included staff of embassies sponsoring the event, such as Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United States, carrying their countries’ flags.

Some 3,000 people took part in the event, according to police, exceeding the expectations of organizers Accept-LGBTI.

A fringe group called the Cyprus Christian Orthodox Movement, including priests and monks, held a counter demonstration but police kept them at bay and out of trouble.

Accept’s head Costas Gavrielides hailed the march as proof Greek Cypriot society “has progressed more than politicians think it has” and said it has made it possible “to open up a discussion” on the conservative island.

Accept has said that a bill legalizing homosexual civil partnerships promised by the government last year has still not been submitted to parliament.

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