FARMINGTON —Morgan Wiggins met his boyfriend, Joel Ruiz, while they were in high school.
After they graduated high school, Wiggins said the two communicated on-and-off for years and eventually got back together. Three years ago, the couple, along with other community members, organized a Farmington Pride Picnic.
Now in its third year, the picnic took place on Saturday outside of the Farmington Aquatic Center. A pride festival is also scheduled next weekend in Durango, Colo.
Ruiz said the picnic is a time to "celebrate friendships and relationships."
Wiggins added the picnic provides a chance to "let people know that it's OK to be yourself and be proud of it."
Mark Lewis has helped the couple organize the event each year. The Aztec man became involved in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community around 40 years ago by participating in some of the early Albuquerque Pride Parades. He now helps with the Four Corners LGBTQ Young Adults Group.
Over the years, Lewis said he has seen society, including people in Farmington, become more open and accepting of the LGBT community.
Lewis said the picnic is important because it also raises awareness in the community.
"Anytime you have a marginalized section in the community, it's important to recognize that everyone should be treated fairly and equally," he said.
Judy Palier, a professor at San Juan College and board member of the college's Safe Zone, sat at a booth on Saturday to raise awareness about a community center she and others are working on starting.
The group began to meet about the center in September.
"It's been a dream of many of us for a while," Palier said.
She said the center would provide resources and support and give people a chance to meet other members of the LGBT community. She also wants to use the center to educate all people about issues in the LGBT community and to offer services, such as women's health screenings.
"We want people to have a place that they feel is theirs," Palier said.
Lucy West from the Four Corners Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Diversity also attended Saturday's event. The organization provides support to LGBT communities throughout the Four Corners, especially in the Durango and Farmington areas. While same-sex marriage has been legal in New Mexico for about half a year, Colorado has not legalized same-sex marriage.
This summer, Colorado is scheduled to have a hearing at the state supreme court on same-sex marriage.
West said when New Mexico legalized same-sex marriage, many Durango residents crossed the border to get married.
"You go back home again, and you lose a lot of those rights," she said.
In Colorado, same-sex partners can enter into civil unions, which grant them a few rights.
"It's not everything you get with a full marriage," West said.