NICOSIA - Thousands took part in Cyprus' first gay pride in Nicosia on Saturday to press for equal rights for all Cypriots and progress on a bill for civil partnership. Organisers Accept LGBT Cyprus hailed the event as a 'huge success" and said more than 4000 were takng part. " In a message on Twitter the organisers said " Cyprus is changing. Thank you all."
Participants included singer Anna Vissi and veteran gay activist Alecos Modinoss.
“I am incredibly moved. A dream of 25 years has come true,” Modinos, a 81-year old architect, told the crowd gathered in Nicosia’s Eleftheria (Freedom) Square.
The parade, held under the theme “Same Love – Equal Rights” was the climax of two weeks of events that included film screenings, theatre performances, music, dance and workshops.
Foreign diplomats and politicians joined young and old, many waving the rainbow flag and carrying placards urging legislation introducing civil partnerships.
The gay festival was organised by Accept LGBT Cyprus and supported by Nicosia Municipality, the offices of the European Commission and European Parliament in Nicosia and several political parties, including Disy, Akel, Diko, Edek and Greens, all of which were represented in the parade. Participating also were members of the Turkish Cypriot LGBT group Queer Cyprus.
Modinos, whose recourse to the European Court of Human Rights 25 years ago led to the decriminalization of homosexuality in Cyprus in 1998, hailed the new generation of gay activists, who he said were putting Cyprus on the map.
Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA Europe (equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in Europe”, hailed the parade as “historic moment for the LGBT community in Cyprus.”
She added: “It sends an important message of hope especially for young people who have still to come out and need role models and should not feel afraid.”
She urged the government and the political leadership to deliver on their promises, particularly on civil partnership which is currently under discussion.
European Parliament acting head Alexandra Attalides said the Parliament stood at the forefront of campaigns for human rights. “A country cannot be European unless there are equal rights for all. Today we are proud,” she said.
Political party representatives voiced support for civil partnership, with organisers noting that human rights could not be “a la carte” and reminding the government that had not delivered on a campaign pledge to submit legislation to allow gay civil partnerships to parliament within a year. The current government came to power in February 2013.
Star singer Anna Vissi said she had come “with much love to take part in Cyprus first gay pride”.
Some sections of Cypriot society still consider homosexuality taboo, and the island’s conservative Orthodox Church has described it as an “illness which needs treatment”.
A delegation headed by the Bishop of Tamassos presented a petition to the Presidential Palace earlier on Saturday voicing opposition to legislative changes. Some 50 people belonging to a fringe religious group organised a counter march in Nicosia and there were scuffles with police when they tried to approach the place where the gay pride was due to end.
Gay pride participants walked to the Municipal Gardens behind the parliament in Nicosia where the festival continued with the participation of thousands.