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Fred Phelps: An Ironic Legacy

This post comes with a trigger warning. Discussing a hate group and their leader, I had to chronicle what they’ve done. For those of you who come to my blog seeking writing advice, short fiction, and memoir entries, an article on Fred Phelps might seem off topic. I’ve met the man on two occasions, and as a commentator on trolls, cyber bullies, and internet culture, I felt compelled to weigh in.

(Thanks to Achilles Sangster for providing many of the photos featured throughout, check out his blog here)

Fred Phelps: An Ironic Legacy

No, this wasn’t Photoshopped. Back in 2001, I met Fred Phelps
No, this wasn’t Photoshopped. Back in 2001, I met Fred Phelps (photo by Achilles Sangster)

In America, 17 States now allow same-sex marriage. The constitutionality of gay marriage bans are being challenged. Media pundits, who once built followings on anti-gay rhetoric, are losing their sponsorship. Efforts to deny service to gay people under the guise of “preserving religious freedom” are being vetoed left and right.

There are many heroes in this new era of civil rights: plaintiffs who brought unjust laws to the supreme court, students who formed GLBT groups, actors, musicians, and sports figures who outed themselves. Still, few have swayed the court of public opinion as much as one man.

Reverend Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, the group responsible for the infamous God Hates Fags demonstrations.

13 years after my first encounter with Fred Phelps, so much has changed. 2 years ago, my home state of Minnesota shot down a gay marriage ban. Last fall, our first same sex marriage ceremonies happened.

We made this progress, despite the best efforts of people like Phelps, or perhaps because of them.

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