NICOSIA - Nicosia readied to host its first Greek Cypriot gay pride parade Saturday, 16 years after homosexuality was decriminalised on the Mediterranean island where the influential Orthodox Church views non-heterosexual relations as sinful.
Activist group Accept-LGBTI, organising the event, said a bill legalising homosexual civil partnerships promised by the government last year has still not been tabled to parliament.
And procedural hurdles stand in the way of the bill making it into law anytime soon, the group's head Costas Gavielides told the Cyprus Mail newspaper.
The short march, starting at 5 pm (1400 GMT), is to make its way from the capital's Eleftheria (Freedom) Square to a park behind the parliament building, where Accept is promising "a super-fun, celebratory party full of surprises, including ... a spectacular, full-blown show by international artist A Man To Pet." The group said the event was going ahead with the support of local authorities, several embassies including the United States and Britain, and international gay rights groups.
British actor Stephen Fry, in comments to the Cyprus Mail, has called for a widespread show of support from the Cypriot public.
"I invite the Church of Cyprus to join the civilised and educated and loving world, including Christian faiths... to recognise the natural, unthreatening nature of homosexuality," said Fry, who is openly homosexual and has campaigned for gay rights across the world, notably in Russia.
A fringe group called the Cyprus Christian Orthodox Movement has announced a counter-demonstration at the same location in central Nicosia.
The influential Cyprus Orthodox Church has also reacted negatively to gays taking to the streets, saying it "regretted the behaviour and lifestyle of some of our fellow men".
The word of God condemns homosexuality and such relationships are a "moral aberration", the church said, adding it was not "a normal lifestyle choice".
But Fry urged all residents of the island to support the march.
"I encourage all Cypriots of whatever sexuality to join in the Pride March to show their support for an open, free, tolerant and enlightened Cyprus," said Fry.
Accept-LGBT Cyprus (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) says it is holding the march to combat prejudice against "10 per cent of the population, hence against 85,000 Cypriot compatriots".
A second bill is before the Cyprus parliament that would criminalise anti-gay hate speech.
'My son is gay!'
Golden Globe-nominated American actress Lainie Kazan, who starred in Hollywood comedy "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", has also come out in support of the LGBI community on the divided island to "be who they are".