By Brandon Wolf
Westboro Baptist Church arrived in Houston this morning and held a 40-minute demonstration against The Montrose Center, before proceeding to the University of Houston to protest the Gender Infinity Conference being held on the campus today. Five members of the church held signs, stomped on a transgender flag, and sang along with music emanating from a boom box. A handful of Houston Police Department officers monitored the event, which unfolded without any notable altercations.
The demonstration was scheduled for 11 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. this morning, but by 11:05 a.m., no demonstrators had arrived. Dr. Ann J. Robison, executive director of the Montrose Center, checked Westboro’s website on her smart phone, and saw that they were set up about two blocks southeast of the Center, at the intersection of Richmond Avenue and the US-59 South feeder. The “HIV and Aging” Symposium being held at the Center today went uninterrupted.
It is a standard practice of Westboro to demonstrate at a nearby intersection when the target of their protest is located in a less traveled area. There was little interaction from passing cars, except for a few horn honks. No verbal confrontations occurred between the demonstrators and a handful of bystanders. One heterosexual man from the neighborhood named Mike counter-protested wearing a colorful dress and carrying a sign that read “What About Matthew 7:13?”
Robison said she was not aware of what reason brought the demonstrators to the Center. A flyer for the brochure, however, stated: “The Montrose Center is an oozing, purulent sore of sodomite contagion: pushing proud sin and the proliferation of incurable disease.”
Westboro runs a tightly organized group—five demonstrators, flat signs, a boom box, and a flag prop, all of which can be loaded conveniently into a rented SUV. A demonstration can be set up and taken down in two to three minutes.
Although the demonstration targeted the transgender community, the demonstrators reinforced their disdain for gays with a sign that read “God Still Hates Fags.” Among the music choices at the demonstration was Melissa Etheridge’s tribute to the Pulse victims: “Everybody’s Got a Pulse.”
“Our community knows that love is stronger than hate,” Robison commented. “The Montrose Center is Houston’s largest LGBTQ nonprofit organization, impacting the lives of an estimated 100,000 people yearly. Today, just like every day, we empower our community.” For 38 years, the Montrose Center has focused resources into communities of the greatest need, including those with HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ seniors and youth.