Before Mel White came out of the closet and founded his LGBT activist group Soulforce, he made his money ghost writing biographies for religious right leaders like Jerry Falwell. White, in one of his books, recounts riding in a limo with Falwell when the car is surrounded by LGBT protestors.
White reports that Falwell laughed and said, “If they didn’t do this on their own, we’d have to hire protestors.” He relished the attention, and the subsequent financial boost, the protestors brought to his career.
For the LGBT community, Fred Phelp’s family-run Westboro Baptist Church serves a similar purpose. If Westboro didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them, because while they virulently despise homosexuality and LGBT people, their vitriol actually brings out a lot of sympathy for LGBT people. As this past holiday weekend showed, it even brings out sworn enemies of the LGBT community to rally against Phelps et al.
Westboro members protested on Memorial Day at Arlington Cemetery with their “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” signs. About 80 counter protestors came out to confront the handful of Westboro members. CNN reported that among the strange bedfellows that Westboro seems to unite were about 10 members of a Virginia branch of the Ku Klux Klan called the Knights of the Southern Cross:
“It’s the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right to free speech,” said Dennis LaBonte, the self-described “Imperial Wizard” of the KKK group that he said he formed several years ago.
Not fully appreciating the definition of irony, Abigail Phelps, Fred’s daughter, shot back: “That’s fine. They have no moral authority on anything.”
But, what the KKK seems to have accomplished here is proving that Westboro’s loathsome rhetoric serves a purpose. While the KKK would certainly still profess to hate gays and lesbians, there is a certain amount of glee one can take in seeing even white supremacists protesting Phelps and his family.
Don’t let Fred Phelps know that he’s the LGBT community’s secret weapon for ultimate unity.