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At 12:30 p.m. today in Kansas City there was a rally at the J.C. Nichols fountain at 47th Street and Main near the entrance of the Plaza in opposition to the passage of California’s Proposition 8 in the recent general election (removing the right of marriage for many in the California Constitution). Approximately four hundred people attended the rally. The local NBC affiliate reported that two hundred people were in attendance. There were also a few people who were in opposition to those at the rally.

There were a few opposing pickets across the street from the rally site before it started.

I spoke with Timothy Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church:

Show Me Progress: So where are you all from?

Timothy Phelps: We’re from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

SMP: Okay. You came out here today to…

Timothy Phelps: To, uh, show a little bit of truth in this so called debate that’s going on about the, whether or not homosexuals should have the right to marry. Um, and by that I mean it’s not really a debate going on. The two sides are two sides of the same coin. Neither of them properly understand or properly respect the word of God. So, we’re laying that message out.

SMP: Okay. I noticed by your sign that you’re not, uh, very fond of the president elect.

Timothy Phelps: You mean my sign that says “Fag Lover Obama”?

SMP: Right.

Timothy Phelps: That’s just a statement of facts. It’s not anything to do with my fondness for him. It has to do with, uh, the reality that it’s a foregone conclusion in his administration that this issue’s settled. This issue, amongst others, is settled. [wind noise] He’s going to be the foremost advocate for the rights, you can put that in quotes, these filthy beasts, not only in the United States, but worldwide. And it’s gonna be under his regime that there’ll be laws against people even preachin’ the Bible. In this nation. About what these beasts do. That’s what were headed under his regime, so that’s what this sign means.

SMP: …Thank you for your time.

Timothy Phelps: Thank you.

This is what the rally opponents faced across 47th Street before the rally started:

The Westboro group left rather hurriedly as the rally across the street near the fountain started to get underway. They were replaced by another group on the south side of 47th Street.

There were several speakers, including Dan Winter (ACLU) and Missouri State Senator Jolie Justus. The sound system was not adequate for the size of the crowd – most of the time it was difficult for anyone not within a few feet of the speakers to understand what was being said.

This individual started haranguing the crowd about fifteen minutes after the rally started. For the most part he was ignored. At one point he ran around the perimeter of the crowd.

A lady saw my media identification, approached me and said, “You tell people that there are mothers here today.” She then walked away. I followed and asked her if I could talk with her:

Show Me Progress: Why are you here today?

Jean Hoover: To support gay, lesbian, and bisexual, and transexual rights. Because we need to make people aware of the humanity and the equality of all people.

SMP: You mentioned earlier that you’re a mother.

Jean Hoover: Yes I am.

SMP: And so you’re here as a mother?

Jean Hoover: I’m here as a mother. I have, uh, a gay son who’s been with a partner for ten years. So that means I have two sons. And I have several adopted sons in the group.

SMP: Thank you…And where are you from?

Jean Hoover: I’m from here, from Kansas City.

SMP: Thank you for your time.

Jean Hoover: Oh, thank you. And where is this going to be?…

After the rally most of the crowd made it back to the picket line facing 47th Street. Some individuals mixing in with the opposition on the south side of 47th Street.

Bonny Russell (left) and Jan Garbosky (right)

I spoke with Bonny Russell and Jan Garbosky after the rally:

Show Me Progress: You’re all from California.

Bonny Russell and Jan Garbosky: From San Diego, yes.

SMP: And you came out here…

Bonny Russell and Jan Garbosky: We actually came out here to see my family and then when we, we’ve been activists in San Diego in working on No on Prop 8. And so we, when we heard that a rally was going to be here we decided we had to be here.

We’re here because Bonny’s brother, who’s 85, couldn’t come to our wedding six weeks ago in San Diego. So we came to him, and his wife.

SMP: So, so you got married …

Bonny Russell and Jan Garbosky:…six weeks ago today…

SMP: …in California and now it’s in danger.

Bonny Russell and Jan Garbosky: Now we believe we’re still married and that if there’s a lawsuit needed to, uh, make sure that that’s the case that’s so what’s happening, But, everyone we know believes we’re married. We were married in our church in front of almost thr
ee hundred people. So, we feel married.

We’ve been together twenty years and, uh, you know, we have lots of support from all of our children and grandchildren and, uh…

…You know, so, we’re really blessed and the support of everybody and, uh, our church. Jan’s the president of our church. And so, you know, we feel so fortunate. And then when we have to see all the hate and all the ugly things that go on it’s very sad. It’s very disappointing.

And to think that we have had this precious love for twenty years and now married for six weeks and that anybody could think that our love is wrong or immoral…

…or less than…

…is, is such a deep hurt.  Because we, um, have, are retired educators. We’ve given to, uh, working for racial and ethnic, ethnic justice in our schools in San Diego. And, uh, this is very hurtful, uh, what our friends and neighbors have said about us and people like us.

SMP: Well, thank you for your time…