Gay Pride Event Sees 'Progress' in 24th Year

"Why do your beliefs have to affect our love? We respect your beliefs, you can believe whatever you want to believe, but we want to believe what we want to believe too. And everyone has a right to love who they want to love. And that's all we're asking for. Nothing more nothing less, we just want to love the same as everybody else gets to love."

~Dawn Smith

Thousands of LGBT members and their allies descended on the state capitol Saturday, marching for what they desire most: marriage equality.

"It's so important that we can love just like everybody else can love, that we get the same legal rights, that we're respected and not treated like some other outcast of society," said Dawn Smith of Eagle. "Straight people get to marry. We want to marry too."

As a festival raged in Old Town, a parade marched down Capitol Ave. Participants then gathered on the steps of the Capitol for a commitment ceremony between couples. A clergyman pronounced couples life partners as dozens kissed.

Politicians and advocates of gay marriage addressed the crowd. Mayor Virg Bernero told the story of his late brother Victor, who was gay, referencing his mistreatment by those who he says didn't understand him and acknowledging that many in the audience had suffered similar mistreatment.

"I am committed to nothing less than justice, equality, and acceptance for each and every one of you," he said.

Representative Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said the LGBT community had his support too.

"Some days I'm defending our local communities and everyday I'm defending and representing the LGBT community," he said.

Ross Matthews, host of a new talk show on the E! Network, was the keynote speaker.

Same-sex marriage opponents were also present at the march, many holding signs proclaiming homosexuality as a sin.

"God doesn't like it. That's pretty simple," said Sherry Pruitt, one demonstrator. "God does not like it. It's an abomination to him. He did not create people as they say he did to be homosexual."

Pedro Ladomato, another demonstrator, said he wasn't expecting to reach everybody with his message, but he thought he was getting through to some.

"We're here because we care about the LGBT community and we want them to repent and turn to Jesus Christ," he said.

And though same-sex marriage remains illegal in Michigan, even after 24 years of Pride events, many participants say they remain encouraged.

"Between the Supreme Court rulings that came down in June and four bills introduced in the legislature to try to recognize marriage equality we're much more hopeful," said Festival Director Emily Horvath. "The political climate is much more open and politicians are actually taking a stand for us."

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