If At First You Don’t Succeed, Invite Westboro Baptist

What happens when a local gay organization in Florida can’t get any of the people working to pass the anti-gay marriage amendment to come and debate them? Well, if you are the Stonewall Legal Alliance at FIU College of Law, you go out and find some other anti-gay activists who will – in this case, members of the Westboro Baptist Church:

A church known for spewing anti-gay rhetoric and picketing military funerals is slated to debate a state marriage amendment at a forum next week at Florida International University.

The Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church accepted an invitation from the Stonewall Legal Alliance, a gay group at the FIU College of Law. The debate will focus on Amendment 2, the initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot that would add Florida’s existing ban on same-sex marriage to the state constitution.

Jose Gabilondo, an associate law professor at FIU, plans to argue against the amendment, while two daughters of Westboro Pastor Fred Phelps will speak for it.

Westboro has gained national notoriety by picketing at gay pride events as well as funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq; it equates modern America with Sodom and Gomorrah.

Westboro members agreed to pay their own expenses to Florida.

“The message of Westboro is the message of Amendment 2,” Gabilondo said.

Debate organizers said they invited members of a state coalition supporting the amendment, as well as several other groups, but they declined.

“That’s the most heinous thing I’ve ever heard. They go to the most radical group,” said Janet Folger, an Amendment 2 supporter who heads a more mainstream Fort Lauderdale-based group called Faith2Action. “It’s a deliberate attempt to make the pro-marriage people appear to be something they’re not.”

Of course, if Folger is so concerned that her movement is being represented by a bunch of vicious bigots, perhaps she should attend the debate herself and explain exactly how her belief that gay marriage = end times actually differs from those espoused by the Phelps clan.