BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Members from the LGBT community gathered for the 8th annual Baton Rouge Pride Festival held on Saturday. But, they were not alone. A crowd of protestors rallied against the event.
The festival was held at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino's Atrium. There were live and DJ- recorded music acts, a children's play area, and a community resource fair that included HIV testing.
Tom Merrill, the BR Pride chairman, said the event is great because members of the LGBT community can come out, have fun with family and friends, and just be themselves.
"I think it's really important to people to be able to have that time, we have so little of it in many quarters in the community, even though things are better than what they were, this is certainly a time where everyone can bring their family, their friends and have a great time," said BR Pride Chairman Tom Merrill.
Outside, most people with protest signs were quiet, and hardly spoke. Some seemed to whisper prayers. But, a bullhorn filled the air with a sermon condemning gays and lesbians.
"Don't reject the will of God. Ma'am, I'm not going to listen to you, you're a wicked rebel. You hate God and you don't know any word God says," the lead voice of the protest broadcasted through the electronic bullhorn.
The bullhorn carried a booming voice, "God hates lesbians, homosexuality, [and] gay, whatever you want to call it. God hates it."
Protestors say that they were trying to turn the Pride Festival attendees to God, and they say that no one should be flaunting what the bible calls a sin.
Inside the Belle Atrium, there were musical performances and smiles. LGBT families were enjoying a musical revue with lip-syncing dress-wearing men. Humorous, and geared to the crowd.
Couples sat together, they shot lots of pictures with their cell phones. They looked happy. Were they aware of the anger outside?
Merrill says he expects protestors every year. "They're entitled to what they want to say. I just want them to stay away from my party," Merrill smiled.
Even though Louisiana does not yet honor gay marriage, there was a moment for an ecumenical ceremony. They held hands, promised to be there for each other even through hard times. A pastor dressed in a white robe wished them lasting love.
Outside, there were attempts to reason with protestors and at times, the gays were flashing Bible scripture at the protestors..."Judge not that ye be not judged..." several LGBT signs stated.
Britt Williams, an anti-LGBT protestor answers, "We ARE judging them. There's nothing in the Bible against judging. The only judgment that's condemned in the Bible is unrighteous judgment or hypocritical judgment. In fact to even say that we are judgment requires judgment."
At the end of the fest, about 100 festival-goers took a symbolic march to the State Capitol. They vowed to continue lobbying for gay rights in Louisiana. They said their march represented their solidarity.