The idea of actual gay people walking around inside their world headquarters was, apparently, too much to bear. On Monday, Focus on the Family officially closed its doors to visitors, ostensibly to "protect" its employees from a potential onslaught of Christian gays and lesbians who descended in a May Day action to protest the ministry's claims that homosexuality can be "cured."
The day before, activist Richard Murphy, above, of Miami, Fla., led an emotional march around Focus' massive campus in northern Colorado Springs. The crowd carried photos of gays who have committed suicide along with two black caskets meant to represent what Soulforce founder Rev. Mel White described as "our dead brothers and sisters."
"Today we walk to honor their lives, and mourn their deaths," White said.
Though temperatures hovered in the mid-30s and the day was occasionally punctuated with snow, an estimated 700 people showed up in support. Before marching around the headquarters, a series of speakers took the stage to criticize Focus founder James Dobson's stance and to point out that numerous health groups have debunked the notion that homosexuality is a disorder.
In a fiery speech, Fountain educator Mike Miles, an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate last year, likened the battle for gay equality to the civil rights movement and lashed out at Dobson as a bully who spreads fear and hatred. "There has always been a James Dobson, and I'm sorry to say there will always be a James Dobson," Miles said.
A half-block away, 24 cops surrounded eight members of the Fred Phelps clan from Topeka, Kansas, who staged their own rally. Holding up a sign that read "DOBSON FOCUS ON THE FAGS," one young woman yelled out to the people walking by: "God has created you for the sole purpose of casting you into hell."
-- Cara DeGette
photo by Collan Fitzpatrick