This post was written by Camille Mayeux, a real estate agent and a member of the Oregon Leadership Action Team
When the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) recently announced their plan to protest the Portland Trail Blazers for supporting marriage equality, my first thought was “Wait, didn’t the Trail Blazers make that announcement over a year ago?”
The WBC is behind the times in more ways than one. When I read the itinerary for their trip to Oregon, I realized that between protesting the Gay Christian Network Conference and a U.S. soldier’s funeral, they probably just threw in a protest at the Trail Blazers game to get the most bang for their buck in Oregon.
After a trip to the dollar store and a few hours making signs, I gathered some friends and headed to Moda Center, where I found…allies. Lots and lots of allies (later The Oregonian reported there were several hundred of us). It was like an impromptu pride parade in the middle of January. Which was wonderful! But where was the WBC?
Just as the crowd was wondering if the hate group had chickened out, I heard an uproar coming from the southeast edge of Moda Center. We migrated in that direction, and eventually I caught a glimpse of the WBC folks through the crowd. I saw a sign that read “Fag NBA” and another that said “God hates sluts.” There were only two or three adults and three children that looked to be about 8-10 years old.
They wandered around the edge of the stadium and surrounding streets, trying to break free from the crowd. After 20 minutes, it was obvious the crowd of allies wasn’t moving, so the protestors got into a car and left.
And that was that. As proud as I am of my city for showing up, the event left me feeling sad and empty. Seeing young children used as tools to spread a hateful agenda was heartbreaking. The kids looked as bewildered as the adults looked smug. I grew up in a conservative faith community in Arkansas, and I know how painful and lasting the effects of hateful religious rhetoric can be.
One of my signs said “Love your enemies – Luke 6:35.” It might be trite to say, but I truly believe love is the antidote to fringe groups like the WBC. Love and compassion have fueled the LGBTQ movement in the last few years like never before. We’re harnessing the power of human connection to win marriage equality, start conversations about transgender acceptance, and to fight employment discrimination.
When you’re confronted with people that have vastly different viewpoints, it’s almost second nature to reply with anger and frustration. But I want to challenge all of us to use the most powerful weapon of all: love.