After Gov. Mike Pence's signing of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the state of Indiana was met with a barrage of backlash from opponents viewing the legislation as a pass to legally discriminate against the LGBT community. In efforts to change that perception, however, Indy Pride, Inc. President Chris Morehead ensures that everyone will be welcome at the 27th annual Circle City IN Pride Festival this Saturday.
"I really hope that this year's Pride Festival provides a chance for any of those traveling to the festival with the opportunity to see that Indianapolis is an incredibly welcoming city and a truly diverse city that is made up of a lot of different people who come together for this [event]," says Morehead, who began volunteering for Indy Pride back in 2007. "We want to make sure that we show that diversity, and that there is a space for everybody."
- Courtesy of Indy Pride
Last year's Indy Pride parade attracted more than 80,000 guests.
Alongside the 10 a.m. start of Saturday's Cadillac Barbie IN Pride Parade (which features Mayor Greg Ballard as grand marshal), the state's largest LGBT celebration will open its gates at the American Legion Mall. Stretching farther than three city blocks, the event will include four stages of national, regional and local entertainment, as well as hundreds of unique product and food vendors. The organization also is hosting numerous Pride Week events around the city. These include:
Living History: Living Proof. Living Truth. Being Transgender in Indiana, 7 p.m., tonight, June 10, Indy Reads Bookstore, 911 Mass Ave. At the free event, three speakers lead a discussion about transgender history. (It will also be simulcast at The Metro, Theatre on the Square and with the Indiana Youth Group; each venue will be equipped to allow audience participation in the live Q&A session.)
Girl Pride, 9 p.m., Thursday, June 11, The Vogue
Indy Bag Ladies Loud & Proud, 9 p.m., Thursday, June 11, Gregs Indy "Our Place"
Indiana Fever Diversity Night, 7 p.m., Friday, June 12, Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Bianca del Rio's Rolodex of Hate Comedy Special, 9 p.m., Friday, June 12, Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
- Courtesy of Jason Coons
Jason Aaron Coons will perform on the Jagermeister Stage at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Having performed at last year's Pride Festival, Indianapolis electronic pop artist Jason Aaron Coons will return for another go-around, playing at 4:05 p.m. on the Jägermeister Stage. Fresh off the release of his Ride EP, Vol. 1, Coons recalls his first time playing the event. "Last year was just great ... the way people treated us and ... what that event stands for too." With all the RFRA news on his mind from the past six months, Coons especially hopes visitors will come experience the festival's uniquely liberating atmosphere.
"No one's worried about how people perceive them, and it just creates a great environment of freedom," he says. "It's almost like when you're a kid and you go to a theme park. It really just has such an innocence."
One return talent has received worldwide applause for her Pride Festival performances, but it's the Indy Pride she's most passionate about these days. Australian singer and songwriter Martine Locke and her wife Jamie have called the Hoosier state home for almost five years now.
Locke has participated in Pride Fests in Milwaukee, San Francisco, Portland, L.A., Santa Cruz and in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. But she's quick to point out, "Indy can beat some of those places hands down," when it comes to the annual event.
"Touring and the cost of living brought me here, and love kept me here," she says, explaining that her wife lived in Indy when they met.
- Courtesy of Martine Locke
Aussie Martine Locke, who has been making music for 21 years, now calls Indy home. She will perform at 2:45 p.m. on the Jagermeister Stage Saturday.
Locke says this year's Indy Pride is significant as "a day of celebration to mark how far we've come."
When she first moved to the Circle City, Locke remembers people telling her, "There is no way gay marriage is going to become legal in Indiana. It'll be one of the last states for that to happen in."
"And here we are. I think that's a huge cause for celebration. Especially because my wife Jamie and I have been out at all the protests," she says. "So I feel even more connected to the fight that's happened here than I have anywhere in the world -- because it's been my fight, something that's affecting me on a grassroots level."
The event organizers are quick to point out this celebration is for everyone in the most literal sense, not just for the LGBT community. Locke reiterates that the entertainment and good times should be shared by all."I think there are a lot of people showing solidarity, not just the LGBT community, but straight allies and supporters who are standing with us and saying, 'It's ridiculous that Pence has been trying to pull this over all of us, and we're coming to support you,'" she says.
Locke predicts many attendees will come here from other states as well.
"I know people who are traveling from Chicago and Ohio who want to be a part of it," she says. "They just want to stand with us with one big, loud voice and remind our government officials that this sh-t's not going to fly."As Indy Pride president, Morehead hopes the ultimate takeaway from guests is a positive view of a proud and vibrant city, one that embraces all its citizens and visitors.
For more information on Indy Pride events throughout this week, visit the Indy Pride website.