Sep 232002
Authors: Willow Welter

The CSU Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender organization plans to make their presence known if an anti-gay group visits the campus on Oct. 12.

University officials recently rejected the Westboro Baptist Church members’ plan to picket at Hughes Stadium during the Oct. 12 Homecoming football game. University police and administrators instead offered the group the option to exercise their rights in the free-speech zone, located on the Plaza in front of the Lory Student Center.

The Westboro Baptist Church, led by its pastor, Fred Phelps, plans to picket at the football game between Colorado State and Wyoming, to “celebrate” the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Shepard, a student from the University of Wyoming, was beaten and lashed to a fence post outside Laramie, Wyo. on Oct. 12, 1998, and later died at Poudre Valley Hospital from the attack. His assailants, Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron McKinney, admitted they targeted Shepard because he was gay.

Phelps and his church protested at Shepard’s funeral with signs that read, “God Hates Fags.”

“We are celebrating the fourth anniversary of Matt Shepard’s entry into hell,” Phelps said in a release.

The GLBT, in response to the upcoming picket, plans to make a “peaceful, positive presence” at the demonstration. This includes events and tactics that will occur throughout next week, until Oct. 12.

“What we want to do is focus on stopping hate in general, not focusing on one person or group,” said Rod Rodriguez, a student who will be coordinating the GLBT strategies. “We want to send the message that there is love and there is acceptance in this community.”

GLBT members intend to incorporate their message with Homecoming Week, which officially lasts from Oct. 10 until Oct. 12. Rodriguez said the group plans on participating in the Homecoming parade, where they will probably distribute buttons expressing anti-hate messages.

Twana Tisdon, co-chairperson for the GLBT, said the group’s involvement in the parade would promote unity.

“There are a lot of people here from a lot of different backgrounds,” Tisdon said. “We will be marching in the homecoming parade as a unified campus group of all members of the community.”

Tisdon also said the GLBT might create picket signs like the ones the church members normally display at their demonstrations, only with a strikingly different message on them.

While Phelps and his followers exhibit signs that read, “God Hates Fags,” “CSU Fags,” and, “Matt: Four Years in Hell,” the GLBT plans to make signs promoting camaraderie among all people.

“We’ll also probably dress the same,” Tisdon said. “Like maybe we’ll all wear white T-shirts, to symbolize unity even though everyone is different.”

Ludo Plee, the other co-chairperson for GLBT, said the organization would decide on more specific plans of “peaceful action” during their weekly Wednesday night meeting.

Rodriguez respects the church’s right to voice their beliefs on campus, even though he may disagree with them.

“If they want to be here, they have every right to,” Rodriguez said. “If I personally want to be treated equally, I have to be willing to extend those rights to other people. But as students I think it’s necessary to stand up and say, ‘although he has the right to be here, we need to show that there’s another side.'”

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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