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Let Westboro Baptist have their hate speech. We'll smother it with peace.

Romaine Patterson, right, in 1999, staged an angel counter-protest outside the trial of a man who was convicted of Matthew Shepard's murder.
Romaine Patterson, right, in 1999, staged an angel counter-protest outside the trial of a man who was convicted of Matthew Shepard's murder.

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All these years later, while the Westboro members are still on their sad crusade, I have moved on, far from Wyoming and far from their tirades. Where I once stood silently, now I speak. I am sure there are people out there who wouldn't want to hear what I have to say, either, as a lesbian with a rowdy and foul-mouthed satellite radio show. So I cherish my First Amendment rights and support Westboro Baptist Church members having them, too.

I look around the world and see people in country after country struggling to express themselves, to be who they are, to say what they want to say. It is only here, secure in our liberty, that all voices are free to shout.

When you have a 3-year-old at home, like I do, you know what it's like to deal with someone who thinks screaming or throwing a tantrum is the answer to anything. But those of us who aren't toddlers or reality-show contestants are mature enough to know better.

All Phelps and his followers want is attention. They cheered this lawsuit that brought their cause to the highest court. They love the news stories and the controversy. It is what they want. Indifference is their greatest fear. Backs turned in silence worked great for us in Laramie. How you choose to use your voice is up to you.

As for me, I will remember those wise words of my mother: "If you can't say something nice, you better watch out for my daughter - because she is about to school you."

Romaine Patterson co-hosts the daily talk show "Derek and Romaine" for Sirius XM Radio and is the author of "The Whole World Was Watching: Living in the Light of Matthew Shepard."

When Westboro Baptist pickets came to her town, was ready for them - in angel wings. She reflects on the right to free speech.


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