The event, called "Give Hate a Holiday" was organized by the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Tupelo and brought together about 35 legal analysts, gay rights activists and their supporters.
"Homosexuals do not expect special rights, only human rights," said Amanda Todd, an attorney and organizer of the Tupelo chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG.
Speaking alongside Todd at a press conference prior to the demonstration were representatives from the ACLU, the Tennessee Equality Project, the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Earlier this year the SPLC designated the Tupelo-based American Family Association a hate group. The SPLC based its designation in part on comments made by Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis at AFA and host of "Focal Point" on American Family Radio.
Mark Potok of the SPLC called Fischer's comments about gays "outrageous" and "intentionally false." Potok referred specifically to comments Fischer made in a May 27, 2010 blog post in which he endorsed a theory that links gays to Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust.
AFA President Tim Wildmon said that comments on blogs like Fischer's don't necessarily reflect the positions of the AFA, adding that while he believes the Bible plainly teaches against homosexuality, "I reject the notion that we're doing anything that fosters hate against LGBT people. That would be un-Christian."
At noon folks were dismissed from the press conference and gathered along West Main Street holding signs proclaiming their belief in the fair and equal treatment of gays. A march that had been planned at AFA's headquarters was canceled because of traffic safety concerns.
Filmmaker Joe Wilson, whose documentary "Out in the Silence," about a Pennsylvania teenager picked on because he's gay, said events like this raise awareness within a community and help deter injustice. The film was shown twice at the Link Centre on Monday.