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Cyprus 1st gay parade: Taking pride in numbers, thousands walk in LGBT support

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Cyprus’ 1st gay parade this week is a momentous occasion for the country, as a surprising number of people — several thousands, instead of an expected few hundred — turned up to show their support of the LGBT community and gay rights. The parade, which took place this Saturday afternoon, was a public call for greater openness, equal rights, and a relinquishing of old, conservative, and hateful attitudes. The CS Monitor shares this Saturday, May 31, 2014, that the gay pride march is particularly important for Cyprus because it is a country that still strongly condemns homosexuality due to the influential Orthodox Church.

Prideful cries and rainbow flags in hand, people in Cyprus’ 1st gay parade took to the streets in peaceful support of LGBT causes and protest against anti-gay sentiments. During the march in the capital, a less influential and numerous set of people also marched in opposition to the gay pride parade. It was estimated that over 3,500 people were in attendance for the celebrated event, a surprising and approving number, considering that many only expected a turn-out of several hundred supporters.

"I'm here because I support the right of everyone to be who they are," said activist Magda Zenon. "I want to live in a society where everyone has equal access to resources and the law."

Although Cyprus legally barred homosexuality from being a crime all the way back in 1988, overall sentiments in the country towards gays (and the entire LGBT community in general) still remain overwhelmingly negative. Activists say that the Orthodox Church, a prevalent religious influence in the European island country, have led the country to remain far less open than its fellow European Union members regarding gay rights. Civil partnership in the region is still being contested.

SF Gate shares this afternoon that a majority of gay couples situated in the Mediterranean sea country of Cyprus still fail to have equal rights that heterosexual couples do, including social housing options and related benefits. Furthermore, they are not able to receive certain accommodations as a gay pair, including being kept in the loop regarding medical treatment for a loved one if deemed necessary.

"There is one love, and our love deserves equal recognition before the law," said Gabi Calleja of ILGA Europe, an advocacy group for lesbians and gays.

The gay pride parade began with a hateful cry from protestors near the capital city’s parliament (around 200 or so, say sources), but were soon drowned out by the thousands that turned out to instead support the LGBT community and its positive message of openness and acceptance. The Orthodox Church continues to censure gay pride, and have been known to call the act of homosexuality as a real “illness.”

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