BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Several thousand LGBT supporters took to the streets in the Romanian capital of Bucharest Saturday for a gay pride parade that resumed after a year’s pause due to the pandemic.

Marchers young and old walked through the capital’s streets, with many waving colorful flags and blowing whistles.

Teodora Ion-Rotaru, executive director of ACCEPT Association, an LGBT rights group, told The Associated Press that Bucharest Pride, which has been running since 2004, “remains a protest that asks for the very basics.”

Although Romania joined the European Union in 2007 and the bloc prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, Ion-Rotaru says state protections often don’t stretch far enough.

“The march asks for protection from violence, protection from discrimination, protection from being fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity,” she said.

Hours before the LGBT parade kicked off Saturday, around 100 far-right opponents, who advocate for traditional family values, held an anti-LGBT counter-march in the capital.

A 2019 opinion poll by Eurobarometer found that 38% of Romanians agree that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people should have the same rights as heterosexuals, while 54% disagreed.

This year marks 20 years since Romania, a country of more than 19 million, decriminalized homosexuality.

When 25-year-old Luca Istodor told his parents about his sexuality when he was 16, they told him that he might be confused. It took them a while, but his parents eventually fully accepted his sexuality. On Saturday they spoke at the pride event about the difficulties LGBT people face in Romania.

“I’m hoping that my parents’ speech on stage will be heard by other parents,” said Istodor, who works as a project coordinator at ACCEPT Association. “It's about loving your children for who they are.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.