In disparate displays of anger and humor, a group of demonstrators protested in the rain against a fundraising fall banquet for Americans for Truth about Homosexuality ( AFTAH ) and its president, Peter LaBarbera, in Arlington Heights Nov. 16.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled AFTAH as a hate group. Among other things, the demonstrators protested the banquet's keynote speaker, Sandy Rios, who claims that Matthew Shepard's murder being labeled a hate crime is a fraud, according to protesters.
Nearly 20 demonstrators gathered outside the Christian Liberty Academy for more than an hour. With rainbow flags in hand, individuals shouted or the group chanted together as those attending the banquet walked inside.
"You can grow out of it! You're confused! It's just a phase!" shouted one demonstrator, referring to attendees bigotry.
"Your hatred kills kids!" they yelled in unison, while some heading inside took photographs of the crowd.
We won! You Lost!" went another popular chant, referring to the recent legislative victory for marriage equality.
The Gay Liberation Network ( GLN ) organized the demonstration against the fall banquet, which is has done annually for several years now. Many in the crowd came from Chicago to protest.
Among those present was activist and GLN co-founder Andy Thayer. He said the event was about giving opposition to a vocal minority.
"They have opposed every single step towards our legal equality," Thayer told Windy City Times. "And now that we've won that largely in Illinois, we need to continue fighting for social equality."
"Our method of doing that is to simply say those who are opposed to legal equality for any whole group of people are promoting bigotry," Thayer added. "It's that simple."
In one heated moment, a man walking into the building approached the crowd.
"Bigots go home!" the crowd yelled.
"I'm a very proud bigot and I'm here!" yelled back the man, who identified himself to Windy City Times as Jim Finnegan from Barrington, Ill.
Finnegan said he came to the banquet because marriage itself wasn't the end of the issue.
"Once marriage occursI have 27 grandkidsthen it's going to be taught to the kids. And most people don't know that; I do," he told Windy City Times.
"I see the history of itwhat's occurred in California and in Massachusettsand it's taught to your children and I don't want that happening. That's what keeps me going," he said.
GLN is planning a second protest at a dinner honoring Cardinal Francis George's retirement on Wed., Dec. 18, at the Drake Hotel, 1000 N. Michigan Ave., at 6 p.m.
Before the crowd disbanded, Thayer spoke to group.
"I think it's important to note that the struggle is by no means over," he said. After a brief respite, the rain began to fall a little harder.