June 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Thousands march in Cyprus’ first Pride parade

Cyprus, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image public domain)

Thousands of people on May 31 participated in Cyprus’ first LGBT Pride parade that took place in the country’s capital.

Costas Gavrielides, president of ACCEPT-LGBT Cyprus, a Cypriot advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview that he and other organizers expected only 300 people would attend the parade in Nicosia. He said roughly 4,000 people marched, with another 1,000 attending a post-parade event.

Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of “The View,” and actress Olympia Dukakis expressed their support of the parade in videos that Harry Mavromichalis, a gay Cypriot movie director who lives in New York, produced.

Former Cypriot President George Vassiliou and Parliamentarian Stella Kyriakides are among those who attended the parade. Gavrielides said diplomats from the U.S. and other countries also supported the march.

“It was a huge success,” said Gavrielides.

The Associated Press reported police clashed with a group of Orthodox Christians who protested it.

Gavrielides told the Blade there were a few dozen “vocal” protesters among the roughly 100 people who turned out to oppose the event, although he said he didn’t personally see them.

“The police basically stopped them,” he said. “We were very glad that it was understood that the parade should happen freely.”

Lawmakers on the divided eastern Mediterranean island decriminalized homosexuality in 1998. Northern Cyprus — formally known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — in January became the last European jurisdiction to make consensual same-sex sexual acts between adult men legal.

A law banning anti-gay employment discrimination took effect in 2004 before the country joined the E.U. Cyprus last year amended its penal code to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

LGBT Cypriots lack many other legal protections found in other E.U. member states in spite of the aforementioned laws.

Interior Minister Eleni Mavrou last year said the government would propose a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.

Gavrielides told the Blade that debate on the proposal has taken place “without any tangible results.”

The Cyprus Orthodox Christian church — which remains influential in the conservative country — has expressed its opposition to civil partnerships and marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Associated Press reported it described homosexuality as “an illness and not a natural way of life or choice” in a statement that strongly criticized the May 31 Pride parade.

“We realize that we have a lot of work to do,” said Gavrielides.

He said the parade not only showed LGBT Cypriots they can come out and “be proud,” but sent a message to the country’s politicians.

“It’s sad, but it was the people who had to give courage to the politicians for them to act instead of being the other way around,” said Gavrielides. “Even in this way we are pleased that there will be some change.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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