The timing couldn't have been better for the shenanigans local activist Aaron Jackson and his non-profit, Planting Peace, pulled off in Topeka, Kansas yesterday.
If you managed to avoid social media or the internet in general over the last 24 hours, the Destin-based activist, along with friends and partners involved in his organization, converted an average-looking two-bedroom house, located across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church, into a symbol of gay pride. This rainbow-colored "Equality House," which will serve as a base of operations for Planting Peace's antibullying intiative, now sits as a direct and visible challenge to the infamous compound's hate and bigotry.
The "God Hates Fags" clan will have to look at it every. single. day.
Jackson, who purchased the house about a year ago through Planting Peace and had been keeping the plan under wraps, knew the response would be swift and sizable. But he didn't expect it to be so massive that he'd hear from international media outlets within the first few hours.
"A lot of papers I've never heard of called," Jackson said Tuesday night.
In addition to an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley and an appearance this morning on NBC's Today Show, he listed off news crews from Australia to Switzerland that had contacted him.
"Someone told me this is the biggest story in Germany," he said, laughing.
Not even the blowback from the city, for which he was mentally preparing, materialized. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, "city spokeswoman Suzie Gilbert said painting the house didn't violate city code."
But it wasn't only the media who flocked over to see what the buzz was about. Jackson described a street scene of traffic jams with "literally thousands" of supporters honking car horns, bringing cookies, and welcoming PP to the neighborhood throughout the day. A few soldiers came by, one of whom offered to help throw a couple more coats on the panels because some unexpected snowfall had cut the painting session short.
Although Westboro Baptist Church leader Shirley Phelps initially responded via Twitter with a crude tweet -- saying "Now we match!" with a photo of stick-figures having anal sex on a rainbow background and the words "Fag Sin" -- Shirley Phelps even stopped in and took some pictures.
According to Jackson, the group yelled out to her asking her what she thought. "She said she loved the colors," Jackson said. "Maybe we've turned her," he joked.
Later Phelps also tweeted that she was "so happy I might help paint" and that it was "a gift" to have such a huge megaphone.
Though Phelps is probably a lost cause, there has been a lot of promising news for LGBT rights and marriage equality activists lately. Support for gay marriage is at an all-time high, with even Republicans trying to rebrand before the Supreme Court hears a challenge next week to California's gay-marriage ban -- a case which many think will result in a ruling favoring federal and state recognition of same-sex marriage.
So kudos to Planting Peace for creative thinking and impeccable timing. The only way this could have been more successful is if Rainbow Brite, Jem, and She-Ra came to life and shared a three-way kiss in front of Phelps' camera.
"This has been the best day ever!" the group posted on its Facebook page. "Keep the love going, the humanity is almost unbearable. Our deepest thanks to everyone who has helped spread the message of love and compassion. [Bigotry's] days are numbered."
If you'd like to help the Equality House and Planting Peace kickstart their antibullying campaign -- or donate to any of the other causes Planting Peace champions (rainforest conservation, deworming efforts, helping homeless children worldwide) -- visit their CrowdRise page here.
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