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Thousands take part in Cyprus' 1st gay pride parade; small protest denounces event

  • Cyprus Gay Pride-1.jpg

    A man shields his eyes from the sun during a first gay pride parade in downtown Nicosia, Cyprus, Saturday, May 31, 2014. Cyprus decriminalized homosexuality 12 years ago, but activists say the country still lags behind in providing equal rights to homosexuals regarding civil partnerships. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias) (The Associated Press)

  • Cyprus Gay Pride-2.jpg

    A participants takes part in a first gay pride parade in downtown Nicosia, Cyprus, Saturday, May 31, 2014. Cyprus decriminalized homosexuality 12 years ago, but activists say the country still lags behind in providing equal rights to homosexuals regarding civil partnerships. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias) (The Associated Press)

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.