BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Harrah’s Great Lawn was alive with Pride Saturday as hundreds came out for the third annual Gulf Coast Equality Festival.
It was a colorful celebration with one big goal: to bring together the community as one.
“Everyone out here is equal. We’re just having fun and partying," said Joshua Roberts.
“It shows that we can all coexist and it shows that we can all love one another, and it shows that we can all have fun because this event is fabulous," said Rita Blenman with the Scarlet Pearl, sponsor of Saturday’s event.
For those of the LGBTQ community, the Gulf Coast Equality Fest is a chance to reflect on the progress that's been made.
“This is huge. Look how many people are out here today. It’s fantastic. Mississippi’s really come together as a community not just LGBT people, just as a community as a whole to become more progressive, become more open minded, more loving and more accepting of all people," said Jensen Matar, transgender education and advocacy program coordinator with the ACLU of Mississippi.
But even though there’s been progress, the fight for equal rights remains strong.
“There are actually zero percent of people as a whole, including LGBT people as a whole, have discrimination protections on a statewide level in Mississippi," said Matar.
“At any given time we can be fired from our job for no reason. At any given time, we can be refused service somewhere just because someone doesn’t like us because we’re gay. So we’re just fighting for equality and unity because we all just want to be accepted and be one," said Kara Coley, president of the Gulf Coast Equality Council, which organized the event.
It’s a fight that’s not being fought alone. Many, like Nancy Holtgreve, came out to show their support as an ally of the LGBTQ community.
“I want people to know that I’m Muslim, I’m proud of being Muslim, and I’m proud that I’m here representing the LGBTQ community," said Holtgreve.
The hope is that this festival is a step toward erasing hate.
“It’s real important to get people together and involved because we’re here, we’ve always been here, and we’re going to stay here," said Samantha Watkins.
“Us all uniting together as one - ot just the LGBTQ community - but every race, every gender, everyone, we can all come together and show we’re all people too. We’re all the same on the inside," said Coley.
The celebrations will continue Sunday with a Drag Brunch at Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort. There will be two showings, one from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and another from 1-3:30 p.m.
Tickets are $50 and can be purchased here.
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