Group counters protesters, raises money for gay & lesbian defense fund

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(Dillon) Montpelier High School students had an answer when faced with a handful of protesters from out-of-state who opposed same-sex marriage.

They raised money for a lesbian and gay legal defense fund.

(Voice) $36,800!  $36,800 dollars… Whooo Hoooo!

(Dillon) Students set up a Web site where people could donate $20 for every minute that members of the Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas demonstrated across the street from the school.

The students raised more than $7,000 for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.

Principal Peter Evans said school officials asked students to avoid confronting the half-dozen protesters.

(Evans) Voice can be a lot of different volumes. It doesn’t have to be a screaming, counter-protest voice. It can be a voice to encourage kids to donate to a good cause.

(Dillon) The Westboro church protests gay rights and pickets Jewish synagogues, military funerals and other events.

Montpelier resident Kenric Kite was one of many who donated because of the protest.

(Kite) I’m also here because I feel like I need to support my community. This is a state where I belong. My ancestors fought the revolution for free speech, and as much as I dislike their message, I also support their right to say it.

(Dillon) Besides raising money, many who turned out also tried to show support for those celebrating the day they could get married. Colleen Flanagan drove down from Stannard for the early morning demonstration.

(Flanagan) Our mission is not to have a voice, but just to be a presence, and tell those guys that we’re in support of them, and Vermont loves them in the face of hatred and bigotry.

(Dillon) And that seemed to be the message that prevailed.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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