If there is one man who can be credited for the success of the gay rights movement, it’s Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps.
Phelps did more than anyone to make opposition to homosexuality seem as toxic as possible by picketing the funerals of soldiers with anti-gay slogans. There probably wasn’t a more inspired way to make anti-gay sentiments seem as unacceptable as possible.
If the Phelps clan had deliberately set out to implement gay marriage in America, they could not have chosen a better method and who is to say that they didn’t.
The Phelps, with their background in civil rights lawsuits and ties to the Gore campaign, weren’t really anti-gay. They were and are willing to do anything to get attention. They were trolls before the word had become common internet parlance. They understood that negative attention could be monetized, literally through lawsuits, and more indirectly through recruitment.
The protests of the Westboro Baptist Church were cartoon efforts at extracting maximum outrage. The people they trolled helped pay their bills.
Fred Phelps began by monetizing civil rights legislation and ended by cashing in as the default villain of a culture of perpetual outrage. If Fred Phelps should be known for anything, it should be as the man who did more than anyone else to promote gay rights in America.