Exgay activist Stephen Bennett lent his support Sept. 26 to an Oak Park, Ill., antigay church’s rally against marriage and civil unions for gay couples. He claimed to “love” gay people because he “was once gay,” but he nevertheless supported the denial to gay couples of basic partnership rights — in employment, taxation, health and family law — that are granted by default to married heterosexual couples.

In response, some Chicago protesters planned a loud protest, while gay equality advocates from Oak Park planned a silent sit-in and prayer vigil.

According to the Chicago Tribune, one antigay onlooker “started yelling at protesters, threw her coffee to the ground and nearly started fighting with them.”

Antigay organizers claimed their battle against gay couples was not political, even as they “said they feel it is important to add what they call a biblical perspective to the debate over gay marriage. It has become an issue during this election season because President Bush supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.”

“You don’t have to agree with us,” the antigay Rev. Ray Pritchard said. But, in fact, the constitutional amendment would force all churches, and all Americans, to agree with Pritchard’s antigay definition of marriage and support his discrimination against civil unions.

According to the Trib, the 100 silent pro-tolerance protesters from Oak Park “hope their willingness to peacefully hear the pastor’s message will spark dialogue with the church.”

“I respect [Pritchard’s] belief. His belief is deep and profound. But I will not agree that homosexuality is a sin. I think it’s a form of life, a form of living, a form of love,” association spokeswoman Ethel Cotovsky said. Her group opposed the boisterous evening protests because “that kind of fiery stuff doesn’t go down in this town.”

Ignoring the peaceful protestors and calls for dialogue, religious-right activist Peter LaBarbera declared war, calling the protests “a telling glimpse into the anti-religious heart of the ‘gay’ activist movement, which redefines historic Christianity as ‘hate and bigotry’ and is intolerant of opposing viewpoints.”

LaBarbera labels all gay equality protesters “anti-Christian” and leftist. He accuses them of planning to “criminalize Christianity.”

Instead of defending his and Stephen Bennett’s denial of the family, employment, social, and tax benefits of marriage or civil unions to gay and lesbian couples, LaBarbera dodges the reason for the protest.

“Homosexual activists are just petrified of the truth getting out that nobody has to be ‘gay,'” LaBarbera says.

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