As LGBT Pride Month winds down, I am thinking about my encounter a while back with the now-deceased "Reverend" Fred Phelps, then head of the homophobic Kansas-based Westboro Baptist "Church", whose website can be found at GodHatesFags.com. Yes, that is their actual web address.
For decades, the Westboro folks have been traveling the country and picketing any public or private event that they think represents gay culture or its effects. They sometimes even picket soldiers' funerals, because they believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were punishments from God for America's tolerance of homosexuality - as if that makes any sense at all.
And those are some things that I cannot let go unchallenged. So I took advantage of an opportunity to confront Phelps in person - in public.
About 10 years ago, I was in downtown Philly during an LGBT pride festival and decided to check it out. While I am straight, these things tend to be a lot of fun, and a good way to network in my advocacy for LGBT rights.
The place was rockin'! People filled the street celebrating the progress we've made in LGBT civil rights. But, most of all, they were celebrating the fact that they could be themselves, that they could act naturally - at least within those six or eight city blocks.
By contrast, Phelps and his team of bigots set up shop on a street corner in the midst of the festivities, and Phelps used a bullhorn to spew his biblical misinterpretations and condemn all gays to eternal hellfire.
I recognized him instantly. He was tall, very thin, and sported a cowboy hat. Unable to resist, I walked up to Phelps and asked, "Sir, doesn't your Bible say, 'Judge not, lest ye be judged'?"
He paused for a moment and looked at me as if I were some repulsive insect.
Then he turned his back to me and continued spewing more pseudo-religious nonsense.
I guess it's easiest to change the subject if you have no real answer.
Fred Phelps died on March 19 of this year. There are rumors that he was excommunicated from Westboro prior to his death, but I haven't been able to sort that out yet.
What matters is that his legacy lives on through the leadership of his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper (a lawyer and a very influential and controlling influence at Westboro) and Westboro spokesperson Steve Drain (whose daughter Lauren Drain wrote a fascinating book after her escape from Westboro).
Hopefully, more young people who have been brainwashed by these nuts will also wake up as Lauren Drain has done. Westboro will cease to exist if they run out of kids to hold their ugly signs.