It was this very craziness that made him such a valuable ally in the fight for gay rights. He and his family church became instruments of change in the culture war over acceptance of gay rights.
Phelps’ ugly persona, almost a caricature of fanaticism, held a mirror up to people who had casually denounced gay rights as special rights, or voted against gay marriage because they vaguely thought it was icky. While gay activists held civil conversations with everyday people, as more and more closeted people came out to their friends, families and co-workers, as prominent politicians, celebrities, and artists voiced their support, Fred Phelps flaunted the ugliness of bigotry back in their faces.
As votes were held people who had never had to think about it before confronted their knee-jerk reactions to gay marriage. On one hand they saw the happy faces of joyous people celebrating legal wedding ceremonies, and on the other they were confronted with ugly striped signs shouting judgmental messages. One side said LOVE IS LOVE, and the other side said GOD HATES FAGS. Which message is more appealing, really?
And the tide began to shift. I felt it and watched with relief as one by one states agreed that having two separate classes of people in America is unconstitutional. As court after legislature have come to their senses, so has the public because the idea of being as horrifically uncivil as the Westboro Baptist Church is much more uncomfortable than accepting that Anna and Eve want to marry, and Patrick and Bill are adopting.
So thank you, Fred Phelps (a phrase I never expected to use). If you hadn’t spread your virulence far and wide, we’d still be battling one court case at a time, and trying to persuade one representative or senator after another. We’d still be taking one step forward, and two steps back. But now, because of the ugliness of Fred Phelps and his family church, Americans are choosing to side with LOVE instead of HATE.
Off you go, Fred, a true servant of your God, an instrument in the battle between good and evil. Too bad you were the face of evil, but you can tell it all to Judas over a drink at Hell’s Bitchin’. He felt a little used in the end, himself.
I’d ordinarily send someone off with a wish that they rest in peace but for Fred Phelps, not so much.