Thousands turned out to celebrate LGBT Pride in the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus Saturday, even as police blocked a small contingent of Eastern Orthodox Christian protesters from entering the celebration grounds.
"This proves that Cypriot society has progressed much more than politicians say," said Accept-LGBT Cyprus president Costas Gavrielides in an interview with the Associated Press.
Although Gavrielides credits the people of the country with moving toward greater acceptance of LGBT people, he said Cyprus still needs laws to protect LGBT rights, including civil unions and adoption rights.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in most of Cyprus in 1998, though the jurisdiction of Northern Cyprus — formally known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — did not repeal its colonial-era law against consensual gay sex until January 27 of this year, making it the last European jurisdiction to abandon such laws, according to the Washington Blade.
Cyprus's best-known LGBT advocate, Alecos Modinos, delivered a speech Saturday, telling the crowd, "We hope Cyprus becomes a European Union member country that respects rights not only in words, but in deeds as well," according to the AP.
But the celebration was not without its detractors. The Eastern Orthodox Church, which has great influence as the predominant church in the country, is pressuring President Nicos Anastasiades to oppose any legislation that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children or receive relationship recognition, reports the AP.
Orthodox antigay activists rallied near the Pride festival Saturday and attacked Pride participants, launching a smoke bomb into the crowd of LGBT people and allies. The antigay demonstrators clashed with police, though the AP did not report any injuries.
In a written condemnation of Cyprus's first Pride parade, church officials said homosexuality was "the human being's fall from grace, and an illness, and not a natural way of life or choice."
As colorful photos depicting celebrants with beaming smiles and carrying rainbow flags blew up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and myriad other social media venues, the Cypriot capital of Nicosia was awash in expressions of LGBT Pride Saturday. See a sampling of those images below.
People walk in a street after a smoke bomb has been thrown at participants in Cyprus's first LGBT Pride festival, held Saturday in the nation's capital of Nicosia.
A woman smiles in front of a placard reading "Fuck Normal."
A protester holding a crucifix takes part in a demonstration against the LGBT Pride event.
Women flashing the slogan "Same Love" take part the LGBT Pride parade in Nicosia on Saturday.
Plainclothes police officers restrain a Cypriot man after he attacked demonstrators taking part in the first LGBT Pride parade in Nicosia.
Demonstrators take cover as a smoke bomb is thrown at the LGBT Pride parade by an antigay demonstrator in Nicosia.
Protesters face police officers during clashes following an antigay demonstration on Saturday in the old part of Nicosia, Cyprus's capital city.
Protesters hold banners near police officers during clashes following an antigay demonstration.