Several thousand people have turned out for Cyprus' first gay pride parade, an event which organizers say show that Cypriots are shedding their conservative views.

One of the organizers, Costas Gavrielides, said he had initially hoped for just a few hundred people to attend the event in the heart of the capital Nicosia on Saturday.

Gavrielides urged lawmakers to pass legislation to protect gay rights, including a civil partnership law.

A small group of Orthodox Christian protesters in the east Mediterranean island nation staged a demonstration nearby to denounce the event they called "shameful." Tempers flared as police prevented them from nearing the parade.