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Thousands March In Cyprus’ First Gay Pride Parade

The parade was interrupted by anti-gay protesters who called it "shameful," but the demonstration was still considered a huge success.

Posted on May 31, 2014, at 5:53 p.m. ET

On Saturday, the country's first ever gay pride parade was held in Nicosia, Cyprus.

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias

Several thousand people showed up for the event, far surpassing what organizers thought, the Associated Press reports.

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
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Costas Gavrielides, the president of ACCEPT-LGBT, one of the organizations that worked to organize the parade, said he was overwhelmed because he had expected just a few hundred people to show up.

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
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“This proves that Cypriot society has progressed much more than politicians say,” Gavrielides said.

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Cyprus decriminalized homosexuality 12 years ago, but activists say the country still lags behind in terms of gay rights.

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Among the speakers was Cypriot gay rights pioneer Alecos Modinos, whose court battles in the 1990s forced the government to repeal anti-gay laws.

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“We hope Cyprus becomes a European Union member country that respects rights not only in words, but in deeds as well,” said Modinos.

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“I am incredibly moved. A dream of 25 years has come true,” Modinos, who is now 81-year old, told the crowd gathered in Nicosia’s Eleftheria (Freedom) Square.

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But the celebration was met with many anti-gay protests as well.

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A group of Orthodox Christian protesters, some holding crosses, staged a demonstration nearby and called the parade “shameful."

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
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The Cyprus Orthodox Christian church condemned the parade publicly, and issued a statement saying it considers homosexuality “the human being’s fall from grace and an illness and not a natural way of life or choice.”

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Despite the protests, organizers called the parade a “historic moment for the LGBT community in Cyprus.”

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias

One organization — Accept LGBT Cyprus — took to Twitter and wrote, "Cyprus is changing. Thank you all."

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