An enthusiastic audience of Islanders turned out on April 27 to see the documentary The Freedom to Marry, which opened the Spectrum Film Festival at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven.

The festival continued through Sunday evening with nine screenings encompassing 14 individual features, documentaries and shorts. The Vineyard’s first film festival to focus on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United States and abroad included post-screening panel discussions and interviews with Island residents.

“Those conversations made the events much more significant,” said Bob Dutton, theatre manager for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and the producer of the Spectrum festival.

Following The Freedom to Marry, which traced the legal and political route to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage, Mary Breslauer of West Tisbury conducted a video conference interview with Mary Bonauto, the attorney who argued the case for marriage equality before the nation’s highest court after working to establish the right to marry in Massachusetts and other New England states.

The Vineyard audience cheered and clapped as Ms. Bonauto’s face appeared on the Film Center screen from her office in Portland, Me.

“In the film, I look worried,” Ms. Bonauto said. “I was worried.”

Ms. Bonauto sounded worried again when she warned the audience that the current political administration in the U.S. is antagonistic to recent gains in social justice. “They’re going to try to claw back what they had before, which was a discriminatory regime,” she said.

Gay life has existed under many earlier regimes, though often quietly. According to Tom Dunlop, who headed a panel discussion at the film festival Friday afternoon, newspaper archives indicate that Vineyard society apparently was accepting of a male couple who ran the Innisfail resort on Lagoon Pond for decades before it burned down more than 100 years ago.

In the 1960s and 1970s, “I had a vague sense when I was a summer kid that there were gay couples here,” Mr. Dunlop said. “No one talked about it.”

When she moved to the Vineyard from Washington, D.C. in 1985, West Tisbury writer and editor Susanna J. Sturgis found the Island’s LGBTQ residents were mostly in the closet.

“Once you come out, you cannot go back in the closet,” said Ms. Sturgis, who already was out when she moved here. “When you live on an island, or in a small town, you take that really seriously.”

The Vineyard’s lesbian community was “quite insular through the late ’80s,” Ms. Sturgis said, while the Vineyard men who contracted AIDS “went off-Island to get sick and went off-Island to die.”

But while there was little activism in the 1980s, a local alliance group formed in response to the AIDS crisis, Ms. Sturgis recalled. In the early 1990s the group faced controversy when the Oak Bluffs School Library acquired two books about families headed by same-sex couples.

“It was a huge issue,” she said. “We heard some really, really nasty invective about God’s scourge on the homosexuals.”

Joining Ms. Sturgis and Mr. Dunlop on the panel was Ev Wilson, a senior at Martha’s Vineyard High School and president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Ms. Wilson said she is glad she didn’t live in those earlier times.

“I don’t think I would have been able to come out,” she said. “I feel very lucky to have been raised in a community and go to a school that’s willing to have a gay-straight alliance.”

It is still easier for a girl to come out of the closet as queer than it is for a boy, Ms. Wilson said. “We have such a repressed image of what we think our boys should be.”

The three panelists spoke after a screening of the 2012 romantic comedy Cloudburst, starring Oscar-winning actresses Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) and Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot) as a longtime couple on a desperate road trip to marry before they are separated forever.

Mr. Dunlop concluded the panel discussion with a real-life example of loving commitment on Martha’s Vineyard, fighting tears at times as he read a letter from Margery Meltzer, wife of Cheryl B. Stark who died in January after the two had been together for nearly 45 years.

“It took until we were older to see clearly that we hadn’t been included in many groups and parties because they were either homophobic or anti-Semitic,” Ms. Meltzer wrote. But by the time the two women were legally allowed to marry, in 2004, the Vineyard Gazette published a front-page article with a wedding photo and Islanders responded with warmth.

“I will never forget all the touching cards we received from the community,” as well as telephone calls from people they never expected to hear from, Ms. Meltzer wrote.

Saturday’s festival screenings were chosen to appeal to younger audiences and families. The Film Center opened its doors for free from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with films and discussions geared to young people aged 13 to 21. Teens from the Vineyard were joined by peers from Cape Cod who received free ferry tickets from the Steamship Authority.

Mr. Dutton said that although the overall crowd was small, it included a number of transgender teens who were particularly interested in the documentary Real Boy, whose subject Bennett Wallace joined the group by Skype after the screening.

“He’s very inspirational. He’s a person who’s putting his life out into the public,” Mr. Dutton said. “The teens had a lot to say.”

Following the youth events, the feature Margarita With A Straw explored the sexual adventures of a young Indian woman with cerebral palsy, compellingly played by the able-bodied actress Kalki Koechlin. Following the screening, Mr. Dutton interviewed Alexander Freeman, a film director with cerebral palsy whose documentary The Last Taboo also explores sex among the physically disabled.

An alumnus of both Camp Jabberwocky and Emerson College, Mr. Freeman told Mr. Dutton that the biggest problem for people with cerebral palsy is that others see their disabilities, not their capabilities.

That’s the mindset Mr. Dutton is challenging with the Spectrum festival. “Some people tend to look at the problems, as opposed to the possibilities,” he said.

The Spectrum festival will return next April, and the Film Society will continue to program LGBTQ-themed movies throughout the year, Mr. Dutton said.

“It’s not like these films don’t come out all year round,” he said. “Just look at this past year. Moonlight was the Best Picture of the year [at the Academy Awards].”