A nationally active anti-gay group is planning to bring its message of hate to Honolulu. The picketing ministry of Westboro Baptist Church, established in 1955 by Pastor Fred Phelps, is coming to Hawaii next month in its mission to oppose the “homosexual lifestyle.” The group’s Dec. 12 news release declares, “God hates Hawaii!”
“While it is Phelps’ right of free speech to preach such vile hatred, the people of Hawaii have a responsibility to condemn this depraved dogma,” said Mitch Kahle, local activist and President of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church. “Whether religious or secular, gay or straight, all good people of ethical fiber should speak out against this violence against our gay and lesbian family and friends.”
According to the group’s online picket schedule, anti-gay demonstrations will be staged in Honolulu from Jan. 9 through 12. Targeted locations include the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the state Board of Education office on Miller Street, the State Supreme Court on South King Street, and several churches: St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, Kawaiahao Church, and Star of the Sea Catholic Church.
St. Andrew’s and Star of the Sea also house private schools.
The WBC claims to have conducted over 22,000 similar demonstrations during the last twelve years at gay pride parades and other events around the country. The group made headlines with its protest at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student from Wyoming who was murdered in October 1998, and whose death prompted a national debate over hate-crime legislation.
In announcing its Hawaii protests, the WBC specifically references Baehr v. Lewin, the 1996 Hawaii Supreme Court case that said the state had to show compelling reason for denying same-sex couples equal access to legal marriage and its many benefits, an action that would otherwise violate the state’s equal rights laws. The case made headlines nationwide, although the decision was mooted by a 1998 Constitutional Amendment aimed against homosexual unions.
In an interview with the Star-Bulletin, Phelps said his group is also coming to Hawaii because of a controversial sex education pamphlet that had been distributed at Kohala Middle School on the Big Island earlier this year. Entitled “Discovering Your Sexuality,” the brochure mentions same-sex and bisexual love alongside heterosexual love and lists the website of Planned Parenthood. It’s part of the popular Weekly Reader series of teaching guides.
State Board of Education member Carol Gabbard wife of same-sex marriage opponent Mike Gabbard objected to the brochure at the board’s November meeting. But she has also denounced the WBC as “fanatics” and “hatemongers,” saying the people of Hawaii had already spoken loud and clear against same-sex unions in 1998.