Thousands attend Indianapolis LGBT pride following stinging debate over anti-gay law

Parade participants toss out candy as part of Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 13, 2015.

Parade participants toss out candy as part of Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 13, 2015. AJ Mast, AP

Parade participants toss out candy as part of Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 13, 2015. AJ Mast, AP

Parade participants toss out candy as part of Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 13, 2015.

The Pride of Indy marching band participates in a parade as part of Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 13, 2015.  AJ Mast, AP

The Pride of Indy marching band participates in a parade as part of Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 13, 2015.

INDIANAPOLIS — Tens of thousands of people converged Saturday on Indianapolis for an annual parade celebrating the LGBT 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.

Parade participants ride on a float as part of Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 13, 2015. AJ Mast, AP

Parade participants ride on a float as part of Circle City Pride activities in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 13, 2015.

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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.

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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.

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