A same-sex couple has become the first to openly take advantage of the country’s new civil unions law, speaking out for equality as they tied the knot.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is strongly influential in Cyprus, and homosexuality was only legalised in 1998. However, the country has made large strides on equality in recent years, despite a continuing taboo.

The country passed a civil unions bill in November last year, with a huge majority in the Cypriot Parliament. The law took effect the following month – but no Cypriot couple has come forward to publicly wed until now.

This week, gay couple Marios Frixou and Fanos Eleftheriades bravely spoke to the media about their decision to wed as they tied the knot in the capital, Nicosia.

Their union is not a first in the country – as at least one other couple has chosen to anonymously register their union without being named.

Mr Eleftheriades and his husband say they want to put their heads above the parapets rather than hide who they are, to send a message to others.

Mr Frixou told Associated Press: “We wanted to give courage to other couples and to all gay and transgender people to accept themselves and not to be ashamed of who they are,” says We’ve gotten scores of messages from people telling us how much courage we’ve given them.”

“The village doesn’t see my as ‘Marios the gay guy’ because I was up front about who I am from a very early age.”

However, the law is not perfect – same-sex adoption is still not legal in Cyprus, there is no recognition of trans rights, and gay people remain banned from serving in the military. Gay sex is still technically a punishable offence under military law.