The Westboro Baptist Church has long been the standard-bearer for homophobia, often crossing the line to absurdity and embracing the cartoonish evil of protesting funerals of everyone from soldiers to the Sandy Hook victims in its pursuit of persecution.

Westboro Baptist Church is, rather unsurprisingly, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group.

They also have a history just as long of inspiring people to counter-protest against them. From the protest of Matthew Shepherd’s funeral immortalized in the play-documentary The Laramie Project to their latest move opposing transgender Virginia lawmaker Danica Roem, the “Westboro Backfire” is as much a part of the church’s narrative as its hard-line anti-queer attitudes.

Delegate Roem (D-Manassas) is no stranger to challenging anti-queer Goliaths. She unseated Virginia’s self-styled “chief homophobe” and author of transphobic policies Bob Marshall (who didn’t handle the loss well). In her, and in Richmond, Virginia, the Westboro Baptists took on a crowd they were ill-prepared for.

About a half-dozen members of the Topeka, Kansas-based hate group showed up to protest against Roem (who used to play and sing in metal bands) with signs like “God made you male or female. Be content and obey him,” while counter-protesters carried positive messages, wore costumes and played kazoos under the guidance of Randy Blythe, frontman of the award-winning metal band Lamb of God.

One counter-demonstrator, Meredith Carrington, who held a sign reading “God’s love is greater than your hate, Westboro,” framed the demonstrations as part of a great shift in the culture of Virginia.

“I think that Richmond has a long history of hate that we’ve done a tremendous amount to overcome,” Carrington said of the former Confederate capital. “I think we need to continue to do that in real ways.”

Despite the theatrics, Westboro Baptist Church is genuinely venomous. But Roem turned their venom into fundraising.

Roem has already raised over $35,000 in campaign contributions with an average donation near $40 since Westboro’s visit to Richmond, and is hoping to hit 1,000 unique contributors by midnight Monday.

Grit Post was unable to reach Roem for comment.


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.


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