About 125 colorfully dressed revelers, many in drag, erupted in a celebration of equality at the Topeka, Kansas, Equality House on Saturday at 1200 S.W. Orleans St. — right across the street from the infamous anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.
The Topeka-based church group has earned national, even worldwide revulsion against its bellicose protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in combat.
Brandishing placards printed with the groups signature slogan, “God Hates Fags,” and variations on that theme, the Westboro Baptist Church claims that deaths of U.S. servicemembers are divine retribution for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.
“We’ve turned America over to the fags; They’re coming home in body bags,” reads a recent press release from the group on its web site, which also says, “Thank God for 8 more dead troops. We are praying for 8,000 more.”
It then gives the names and hometowns of eight recently deceased servicemembers.
As a counterpoint to the church’s vitriol, Equality House labeled its event “Drag Down Bigotry.”
The theme of the event was, “that you can be who you want to be and do it in the face of hate,” said Davis Hammet, director of operations for Planting Peace, the nonprofit owners of the rainbow-painted Equality House.
“Our mission is just celebrating who you are no matter who you are,” he added.
One attendee of the rally, Eugene Jones, 28, said the goal was to “bring people together from the community and show everyone Topeka is not full of hate.”
It is not known whether members of the anti-gay church were present during the “Drag Down Bigotry” rally. They group had announced plans to be in St. Louis picketing the World Series betwen the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, to protest, it said, “the worthless strutting peacocks of these two baseball teams ... glorifying themselves instead of God.”
Whether the Westboro picketers actually showed up there is not known. Earlier, the group said that Red Sox and Cardinals fans had already been punished by God, citing the Boston Marathon bombing in April and the Joplin, Mo., tornado in May as examples of heavenly wrath against the two fan bases.
The church called players for the two competing World Series teams, “nasty fornicating adulterous sodomitical punks-in-uniform.”
SOURCES: Topeka Capital-Journal, KTRS News, CBSBoston, Westboro Baptist Church