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Fred Phelps’ Death Won’t End Anti-Gay Hate, But Luckily the Tide Is Already Changing

Fred Phelps’ Death Won’t End Anti-Gay Hate, But Luckily the Tide Is Already Changing

Being a Kansas native and general supporter of progressive causes, my social media platforms are a-buzz with news of Fred Phelps’ impending demise. That’s right. THE Fred Phelps of the homophobic, funeral-picketing Westboro Baptist Church.

The church spokesperson hasn’t confirmed anything, but Nathan Phelps, the elder Phelps’ estranged son, made a statement on Facebook:

I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the “church” back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.

I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.

When it all came out, my Facebook feed kind of exploded with suppressed glee. Or at least ambivalence. Which is understandable. Fred Phelps and the WBC has become a symbol of pure hate and a point of embarrassment for Kansas progressives. And it’s not as if the WBC will go away when Fred Phelps dies. Nothing will really change.

However, even if the death of an 80-year-old man isn’t exactly groundbreaking news, the death of avowed homophobes is notable. It serves as a reminder that things are, indeed, changing.

Despite the impression that prominent members of the Republican party make, support for LGBT rights isn’t just the domain of the political left anymore, especially among the young. A recent Pew poll bears that out.

Democrats are still way more likely to support same-sex marriage. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats 18-29 support marriage equality, but it’s also high for the 65+ set; in that case, support dips but is around 62 percent. Republican support for marriage equality is predictably weaker. Of Republicans 65 and older, only 22 percent support marriage equality. But, among 18-29-year-olds, that support jumps to 61 percent. That is also much higher than the Republican party as a whole. And it’s not just marriage equality. According to the Pew Research Center:

The relative liberalism of young Republicans on issues of homosexuality goes beyond their support for gay marriage. Just 18% of Republicans under 30 say “more gay and lesbian couples raising children” is a bad thing for American society, while 26% say it is a good thing (56% either say it doesn’t make a difference or they don’t know). By comparison, majorities or pluralities of older Republicans say this trend is a bad thing for society.

This isn’t really something we didn’t already know. We know that, generally, young people are more supportive of marriage equality than older people. But this is a party that a decade ago thought that a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality was a political winner. Now it’s becoming clear that the future of the Republican party will be gay-friendly, at least relative to what it is today.

As callus as it may be, this is what I think of when I hear of the ill-health of powerful homophobes. Anti-LGBT bigotry is still a real problem, but the generation gap on this issue is also a real reason to hope for a better future.

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Photo Credit: Stephen Luke via Flickr

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8:50AM PST on Feb 8, 2015

Thank you

4:56PM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

Now he gets to go and explain his actions. I would not like to be in his shoes.

4:11AM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

First, Happy, happy birthday Tim!

Second, i can not presume what does or doesnt happen beyond this world, but Mr. Takai's life & words are an interesting contrast to the life & words of Fred Phelps and the impact we can have on each other in the here & now.

Third, I am very sorry Nathan Phelps, for all the pain inflicted upon you by your father & your
family, in the past as well as the present. But I commend your strength in staying true to yourself. Although you didn't get to say good-bye & again endured rejection & scorn, I wish you peace.

3:37PM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

Thank you, George Takei, for your comments on the death of Phelps. Do not spread more hatred over the man, it is a waste of energy. Focus on fighting for and celebrating human rights.

8:18AM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

Thank you.

1:39AM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

Weird things going on, with my comments disappearing and then appearing again!
Sorry about that....
Hope it's not happening with others' comments...

1:24AM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

[My comment just disappeared!]
Objectively speaking, Pastor Phelps is the best thing that could've possibly happened to the LGBT community and their many, many Allies - and to the World at large.
He and his Family brought out Gay Hate before the Public, in all its obnoxious splendor.
None of this sly, "subtle", behind-the-back "funny-ha-ha" commenting, sly looks and giggles and "hints" and "acceptable" put-downs. This was the Real McCoy.
As a direct result, NOBODY wanted to be associated any more, with that sort of thing. It was SEEN for what it really was. There was a Repellant Effect. The prevailing anti-Gay "Style" became utterly passe'. The blatant IMMORALITY of it, was shown up.
Pastor Phelps left this Earth when finally his real Mission, was accomplished. He and his crew, actually ADVANCED Gay Rights, probably by DECADES.
And I certainly do MEAN this!!!

1:10AM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

Tim W: "don't send hate mail, send letters of condolences letting them know that you send them despite they would not have done the same for you. Don't picket their funerals, respect their privacy. Be the better people and teach them by example.

Do I think it will change them...I doubt it. I bet it will change everyone else though."
===================
Very beautifully put. Also what Sarah M. said, and others.
We take the High Road - we are better than "retaliators".

1:02AM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

Looked at objectively, Pastor Phelps was the best thing that ever could've happened to the LGBT community {and their many, many Allies; and the World at large}.
Because of his & his Family's brazen and obvious public obnoxiousness, people saw the REAL face of Gay Hate and Bigotry revealed. Not just by sly little jokes and "genteel" "harmless" "funny-ha-ha" little behind-the-back put-downs - but the Real McCoy in all its awful splendor.
Just as a matter of Style, if nothing else, NOBODY wanted to be associated with that type of thing that Family represented. Well, give everybody credit, it was more than just "Style" - the whole brazen IMMORALITY as well as the ugliness, of Gay Hate, was paraded before the entire world.
There was a continuous repellant effect. Pastor Phelps died when his "horrible example" was finally not NEEDED any more. We see in the faces of loving just-married couples, the CONTRAST with the faces of the Haters. Really, we can be THANKFUL for Phelps's advancing the Movement DECADES faster than it would've gone without him...
I MEAN this!!!

8:52PM PDT on Mar 23, 2014

George Takei is a class act.

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