Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On Fred Phelps and Protesting at Funerals

I've been thinking about what to say regarding the latest news of uber-homophobe Fred Phelps and his band of nutjobs protesting the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. The I found out that someone said it for me:

I know I am supposed to feel all warm inside, now that it will be illegal for Reverend Fred Phelps to “disrupt funeral services, graveside services, or memorial services” when a new law taking effect in August will stop him and his “church” from disrupting services in Minnesota (other states already have passed similar laws to stop his disrupting soldiers’ funerals).

Don’t get me wrong, I think what his church is doing is sick, but here is where it becomes gray for me: October 16, 1998, Matthew Shepard’s funeral. Phelps and his followers came to scream “God Hates Fags!” and carry antigay signs (as seen in The Laramie Project).

For the next eight years, Phelps was allowed to “disrupt” the funeral services of hundreds of gay men. He even runs a hate Web site at announcing his next protest. Did anyone make laws then? Didn’t anyone care?

Phelps and his followers decided that attending gay funerals didn’t get enough attention, so he announced that the United States is losing the war because of its tolerance of gays, and started disrupting soldiers’ funerals.

Am I wrong to be a little angry that Minnesota lawmakers didn’t have time to protect gay funerals, but they had time to propose an amendment restricting my right to marry?

What are our lawmakers telling us? That it’s OK to pick on the defenseless gay kid, and disrupt our funerals? It’s OK to hate gays, and to limit our rights with a marriage amendment?

I'm glad that people are outraged at the sickness of Phelps and his ilk. But what bugs me is that he's been showing up at the funerals of gay men for years, most notably, Matthew Shepherd's. There was no goverment action then to stop his protests. In fact, at Shepherd's funeral, it was brave people who took their umbrella's (it was raining that day) and shielded the protests so the family wouldn't see them.

Not that I think these laws are a good idea anyway. As sick as I think Phelps protests are, he does have a right to protest. The right to protest is one of our basic rights, even if I don't like it. And as history, shows, gays have found ways to deal with Phelps without begging the government to do something.

I guess what really bothers me is that this whole situation shows how unimportant gays are to the wider society. Everyone will blog and rightly condemn when Phelps goes after our servicemen and women, but it seems that no one cares when it's the gay man who died from AIDS.

So, I'm glad the wider society now knows about how twisted Fred Phelps is. I just wonder where the hell they've been.


Karim said...

just passing through...I agree with what you wrote..where was the governemnt when Phelps and his ilk were saying that Matthew Shepard was going to hell?

Moncrief Speaks said...

I love your self-description.