At Greenwood Pride Festival, five couples joined in matrimony, tying the knot in the middle of Woodmen Park Saturday.

One of those couples was Anneliese Klausing and Ali Klausing. The two women met in California in 2016 before moving to Indiana and pursuing music together, with Anneliese Klausing singing and Ali Klausing playing guitar. Less than an hour after they got married, they took the stage to perform.

“I think people in our generation standing up (for queer rights) is important for young kids,” Ali Klausing said. “There are certain groups of people that don’t want us to be who we are. I think the way we fight that is to be who we are, loud and proud.”

The same ceremony would not have been able to take place a decade ago, when same-sex marriage was forbidden in Indiana. While progress has been made, however, there is still work to be done, said Bretta Thompson, who officiated the weddings.

Thompson has been holding ceremonies for same-sex couples for 11 years, and said before same-sex marriage was legal in Indiana, she would hold commitment ceremonies with the hope those couples could one day get married.

“I think there’s a lot more support in this state than what we had, and I think we’re finally starting, I don’t know if I want to say turning a corner, but approaching that corner,” Thompson said. “I think the more people we can get who accept who are on the LGBTQ side, the better off we’re going to be.”

There are still significant obstacles to overcome, she said.

“There are a lot of tough challenges in Indiana,” Thompson said. “It’s really, really hard to get equality. I mean, even for women alone, we’re facing our own battles in this state. We all just need everyone to vote. We’ve got to get the young voters out there. We don’t have the greatest percentage of young voters and we’ve got to let them know your vote does matter, it does count. We can turn things around.”

Pride has been celebrated since June 1970, one year after LGBTQIA+ people gathered to protest the raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. The tradition has changed over time as LGBTQIA+ people have gained more rights.

Greenwood Pride was founded in 2018 as a way to organize LGBTQIA+ Pride events locally, with a goal to inspire, educate, commemorate and celebrate the diversity of the community. The first festival was staged in 2021 at Craig Park before moving to its current home at Woodmen Park last year.

At Greenwood Pride Festival this year, there were 115 community-supporting vendors, drag shows, musical performances, age-appropriate kids activities and more. There were also food vendors and a special beer from Mash Craft and a special wine from Mallow Run.

With legislation that has impacted the LGBTQIA+ in Indiana and around the country this year, organizations such as the Johnson County Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters of Johnson County also turned out to support the community. Democrat chair Amanda Stevenson-Holmes and others were on hand to register voters.

“We have legislators who have decided to marginalize this group of people who are just trying to live their lives,” Stevenson-Holmes said.

Today, events like Pride are both held to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and help people who are not part of the community understand more about the community and erase harmful narratives, Stevenson-Holmes said.

“I think people have got to stop the fear-mongering,” Stevenson-Holmes said. “Just because it’s not something you’re familiar with, always be willing to learn, ask people questions, get out there, come to these kinds of events and learn more about these individuals and what’s important to them.”

Tia Mirage Hall, a Greenwood woman who has represented the state as Ms. Gay Indiana since September, helped emcee the event. Hall, who is transgender, called attention to Senate Bill 480, which Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law in April, banning gender-affirming care for minors.

“They’re trying to make trans youth not be able to transition. I tell people my story all the time. I transitioned when I was 15 years old. If I didn’t transition when I transitioned, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” Hall said. “The importance of voting is if you vote for the wrong people, the wrong people are going to get us out of here. They’re trying to make laws to abolish us, to abolish trans people, to abolish gay people, to abolish anyone that isn’t what they think the norm is.”

Clarence Davenport, a transgender man, wore a shirt with the message “Protect Trans Youth,” traveling from Muncie to attend Pride.

“Right now, the existence of trans people, and especially trans youth is being attacked. We’re told that we aren’t valid to exist when in reality, we are here and we always have been,” Davenport said. “All these anti-trans and anti-queer laws are being passed. They’re not protecting kids, they’re killing kids.”

Pride, however, helps queer people have a place to be celebrated, he said.

“I think Pride is a place for you to be unashamed and it’s important, because so much of the year, we have to hide who we are,” Davenport said. “We’re fighting to be who we are, and at Pride, you just get to celebrate who you are unapologetically.”