LGBTQ Center holds first-ever Pride Block Party in South Bend

Published: Jul. 8, 2017 at 7:11 PM EDT
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On Saturday afternoon, Michigan Street was closed down between Washington and Wayne as hundreds flocked to show their pride.

Men and women joined together in South Bend to throw a block party. Regardless of your gender identity or lifestyle, organizers said they wanted people to show up and be themselves.

"It really warms our hearts coming out, either showing solidarity or visibility for the LGBTQ community knowing that when we do move forward they will be behind us supporting us all the way," said Jamie Morgan, Executive Director at the LGBTQ Center in South Bend. "It's incredibly important for us to have a family-focused event. Love shapes all types of families and we want to be supportive of everybody."

Saturday live music could be heard amongst the rainbow flags and festive outfits. From kids to pups, everyone was out celebrating their pride.

"You can't even put it into words truly how amazing it is," said Todd Behling-Thomas who attended the pride event. "I grew up in a time where it was not accepted, so to see the transition and how for the younger generation how more open people are, that's an amazing thing."

Todd and his husband Joseph Behling-Thomas went to the block party with their pup Milo. The couple has been together for 16 years, but only married for three.

"To watch people slowly accept it, Todd went from my roommate to my friend and people will willingly now say, 'how is your husband doing?'" said Joseph.

"I think this is just a great experience in all honesty," Todd said. "We just hope that we continue to move forward and acceptance is everywhere, because that's what it's all about."

Mayor Pete Buttigieg could also be seen on Michigan Street posing for a few photos, showing his support for the cause.

"Hopefully this becomes a regular thing that just becomes one more way that South Bend celebrates summer and enjoys community and again sends that message that this is a place where everyone should feel a sense of belonging, everybody should feel at home and we want everyone to know that they're welcome in our city," Buttigieg said.

The LGBTQ Center sold shirts and flags, all proceeds going toward the youth programs it offers.

Additionally, the Family Justice Center was out to let people know they're there to help. They had a selfie booth set up to break the ice on conversations about domestic violence or struggles with coming out.

"Domestic violence and sexual assault is a conversation that people are not always super willing to have, it's kind of an uncomfortable subject for people so having a booth where we can give some fun things to do and to hear that we do exist and are here if they need us is a great way for us to get involved with the community," said Megan Elbin, the Front Line Advocate for the Family Justice Center.

If you are ever in need of help or need someone to talk to, the center offers a 24-7 crisis line at 239-HELP.

There was at least one protester at the event, but for the most part it was a peaceful gathering.

There is a 21-and-over party at Woochi Japanese Fusion and Bar until 1 a.m. Sunday.