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Counter protest greets Westboro group

Kittanya Locken and Marly Gilbert share a kiss in front of the anti-gay protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church.

OLYMPIA — A half dozen members of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church drew about 200 counter demonstrators to a protest at the entrance to the state Capitol Campus this afternoon.

The Kansas congregation said on its website it was “picketing the legalization of fag marriage” in the state Wednesday and Thursday. They apparently didn't get the memo that the law is on  hold, at least until December, because Preserve Marriage Washington filed more than 225,000 signatures on referendum petitions to put the law on the ballot.

Since Preserve Marriage Washington only needed about 121,000 valid signatures, there's almost no chance that the law won't be before voters in November. The secretary of state's office will go through a streamlined process to check signatures next week.

While the Westboro group sang, waved their signs and, for part of the protest stood on an American flag one protester had dropped on the ground, the counter demonstrators jeered, shouted and waved signs spoofing the standard Westboro “God hates Fags” signs.

“God hates figs,” said one. “Eggs hate Nogg,” said another.

Other counter demonstrators blew bubbles, waved flags or served pieces of a cake decorated with a rainbow.

Washington State troopers kept the two groups separate. But Kittanya Locken and Marly Gilbert, a lesbian couple who live in Olympia, made their way to the front of the counter demonstrators to share a kiss in front of the Westboro group.

Locken said they learned about the protest on Facebook, and decided they had to come to protest the protesters. “It's our home and our duty to support our friends.”

Austin Hedrick, a high school senior from Tumwater, said he came hoping to talk to the Westboro protesters, but the crowd made that unlikely. Hedrick was carrying his Bible and said he plans to attend a seminary in the fall. He wanted to tell the protesters they were wrong about their interpretation of the Scripture.

“The Bible says homosexuality is wrong, but it doesn't say to hate homosexuals,” Hedrick said.

Katrina Akins of Olympia, who was blowing bubbles in the back of the crowd, said she'd recently seen a movie about the Westboro Church, and wanted to see them  in person. “They're about what I expected,” she said.

Why bubbles? They're fun, they make rainbows…and the bubble blower was cheap at the dollar store, she said.

After an hour, the Westboro protesters packed up and left, and the counter demonstrators slowly dispersed.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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