To celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Equality House, a rainbow-painted LGBT-themed building across the street from the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a mass kiss-in was held. Many ex-WBC members attended, including Libby Phelps, the granddaughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps.
Phelps, one of Fred Phelps’ 54 grandchildren, left the church in 2009.
“There are so many reasons; bottom line is I don’t believe in WBC theology. I don’t think it’s right to display such a hateful message,” she said. “I especially don’t think it’s right picketing funerals.”
Phelps was brought up to hold anti-gay signs.
“As a child you trust your parents to raise you right and to lead you down the correct path,” she said. “My parents thought they were doing the right thing. They believe in WBC doctrine. As I got older, I decided I didn’t believe in the doctrine and the only option was to leave everyone I’d ever known behind and start a new life.”
Phelps doesn’t talk to anyone from WBC anymore, including her parents.
“You leave your entire life, everything you’ve ever known,” she said. “That’s why it’s so hard to leave.”
Phelps said she thinks the Equality House has made a positive impact on the community.
“Within the first month of them painting it, I stopped by and wanted to help out,” she said. “The owners gave me a paintbrush, and I helped paint the house. At the recent celebration, I participated in ‘Plant One for Peace,’ where all of us stood in front of WBC and gave our partners a big smooch. We also participated in the hand-print mural which signifies unity.”
Phelps said she thinks it’s important for people to attend events like these, regardless of what they believed in in the past.
“It sends a powerful message for me in particular to attend simply because of my past,” she said. “Me being there shows that people can and do change. I’m living proof that hearts and minds do change.”
Phelps said she saw her cousin at the kiss-in, but she didn’t even look at the demonstrators. Phelps said that was expected.
“They know what’s going on,” she said.
Since leaving the WBC she got to travel abroad, cut her hair, get ear piercings and get married, some of the things WBC members can’t do. She also posed with her son Paxton for the NoH8 campaign.
“WBC had raised us to believe that everyone outside of the church hated us, and it’s so refreshing to see that’s not true,” Phelps said, adding that her friends at the Equality House have been supportive and understanding. “I tell my son every night how much I love him, as I often think about how absolutely devastated I’d be if I lost Paxton, like my parents lost me.”