Freedom of Speech is Not a Freedom from Repercussions
Fred Phelps is a despicable human being. As Americans, we are (we're told) more divided politically, socially (economically?) than ever, but we pretty much all agree on that one.Fred Phelps is a despicable human being.
So, why do we suffer him to exist? For reasons. It's Freedom related for those too busy to click through (It's the Bill of Rights). Fred Phelps has (as an American Citizen) the Freedom of Speech, and the Freedom of Religion for that matter, both in the first Amendment. And he exercises them like nobody else!
But the fact that he believes that all homosexuality is damnable, and that anyone that doesn't decry it in the same way he does is a "f---enabler" and therefore damnable as well doesn't mean that we get to lock him up. The fact that he takes his "faith" and uses it as justification for trampling on funerals, weddings, public tragedies and anything else he thinks will get him noticed doesn't mean that we get to lock him up, or shut him up.
And as Fred Clark has pointed out so well before, that all makes Fred Phelps a great example of why conservative leaders are full of hot air.
No one is going to make you like homosexuals. Or marijuana. Or socialized medicine. Or any of the other horsemen of the apocalypse that you're sure my generation is bringing down upon us. You can hate gay people your whole life, (just like you might still dislike and mistrust black people), but we're all going to stop acting like it's okay for you to say those things in public.
The Founding Fathers gave us the Freedom of Speech (although it only applied at the time to white, property-owning men), but they didn't even give themselves the Freedom from Repercussion. That's what the opponents of Marriage Equality are asking for. They want to be free to continue saying terrible untrue things about homosexuals. They want to continue to be mean in the public square and to have the media and the public not mind. They don't want to take their homophobia "subtle" like they've been forced to take their racism.
And tough. That's what I have to say about that.