INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tens of thousands of people converged Saturday on Indianapolis for an annual parade celebrating the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community only months after a stinging debate over Indiana's new religious objections law.
Mayor Greg Ballard, who served as grand marshal of the Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade, joined his wife, Winnie, in waving from the back of a streetcar to thousands of cheering people who lined the downtown parade route.
The Republican mayor was invited to serve as grand marshal after he spoke out against Indiana's religious objections law, which critics called discriminatory against the LGBT community.
Tami Meyers, a 41-year-old nurse, traveled from Huntington in northern Indiana to see the parade with friends and cheer on parade participants, some of whom rode atop colorful floats, waving rainbow flags that are a symbol of LGBT pride.
Among the many banners carried by those marching in the parade was one which read "God Loves You. No Exceptions" and provoked cheers and whistles of support as it was carried along the parade route.
Meyers, who is lesbian, said she was stunned when she heard about the religious objections law Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed in March. Although lawmakers eventually clarified that law after some companies banned travel to the state and some conventions threatened to cancel, she said the law had harmed Indiana's image.
If Indiana lawmakers fail next year to pass civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, Meyers said she and many others in the LGBT community may opt to move to more welcoming states.
"Why would I stay in a state that doesn't support me? I could go to one that does. It's hard to give your money to a state when they don't support who you are. And it's really none of their business. It just gets my blood boiling," she said.
Nicole Short, a 29-year-old bank teller from Indianapolis who's one of Meyer's friends, said it's "crucial" that lawmakers endorse civil rights protections and move on past any debates about the LGBT community.
"It's 2015. Things have changed and Indiana needs to get on with the change because love is love. Period," she said.
Saturday's parade was the culmination of the Circle City IN Pride Festival, which featured 16 events over nine days.
Last year's parade attracted about 40,000 people and festival President Chris Morehead said Saturday's parade may top that. He said the festival's 9-day run is also expected to match or exceed last year's attendance of 96,000 people.
This year's festival is the first since same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana last October under a U.S. Supreme Court decision that let stand two federal court rulings which found that Indiana's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.
During Saturday's festivities, Morehead said 10 same-sex couples wed at an on-site chapel named for Niki Quasney, a Munster woman who, along with her wife, Amy Sandler, successfully challenged Indiana's gay marriage ban.
Quasney died at age 38 in February a few months after the couple won in court.