Local News

Demonstrators Protest Gay Marriage At Chapel Hill Church

Posted May 15, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Crowds gathered in Chapel Hill Sunday not just to celebrate graduation, but to demonstrate against a gay union performed at a Baptist Church there.

The protesters walked in silence outside the Binkley Baptist Church, allowing the signs they carried to speak for them.

The target of their wrath is Jimmy Creech, the Methodist minister who performed a lesbian union in Nebraska. Creech recently performed a marriage for two men at the church in Chapel Hill.

"One man, one woman, one lifetime," believes Fred Phelps. "He's perverted that into men marrying men and women marrying women. That's the kind of thing that brings the wrath of God upon a nation that tolerates it."

Leading protests like this one is both a full-time mission and a family affair for Phelps. He brought his daughter Abigail, the youngest of his 13 children, to help spread his message.

"The pastor, so-called, has sold his soul or her soul or whatever it is to the devil. That's what I think," Abigail Phelps says.

Jim Raymer cannot understand the intensity behind the protest. "I just find it very difficult to conceive of someone so consumed by hate that it becomes their entire life," Raymer says.

It was Larry Ellis and Jim Raymer's wedding that brought the protest to Chapel Hill. The couple calls the protest a blatant demonstration of bigotry and hatred.

But they are worried that other, more subtle forms of discrimination will remain even after the protesters leave town. The couple is using the protest as an opportunity to educate people.

"Homosexuality is not abut sex, contrary to popular belief, it's about love and the people we love and want to spend our lives with," Ellis says.

The gay community is responding to the protest by holding what they call a "Bigot-A-Thon." They are raising pledges for each minute each protester spends demonstrating. The money will go toward Jimmy Creech's legal defense fund.