He was, of course, best known for picketing funerals of soldiers killed in action, with his trademark “GOD HATES FAGS” placard. His staunch belief was that any tragedy befalling America, such as 9/11, was “punishment” from on high for America’s tolerance of gay people.
The offence he caused was sufficient for some states to actually introduce laws to keep him and his followers away from funerals, and in 2009 he was banned from the UK. He paid personal costs, too – he was estranged from his son, Nathan, for many years.
Ultimately, most Americans, even those holding anti-gay views themselves, found his actions distasteful. I’m sure many people, who might have been sitting on the fence about the whole gay thing, were actually pushed into the pro-gay camp, simply to avoid being associated with his ideas in any way.
The temptation to gloat about his death must be huge for many people – there is, predictably, already a group on Facebook calling for people to picket his funeral. However, I’m finding hard to muster up much hate. I simply feel a mixture of sadness and pity at this man who wasted his life on such an obsession.