CNN screengrab

After the house opposite the Westboro Baptist Church went up for sale, one LGBT+ activist had an idea – buy it, and turn it into a beacon of hope.

Aaron Jackson told CBC that he discovered the house was for sale after researching the church, whose members are infamous for their anti-Semitic slurs, as well as picketing US soldier funerals by holding ‘God Hates F**s’ placards. He said:

It came to me right away…that would be really funny to buy that house and paint it the colour of the pride flag.

Aaron JacksonAaron Jackson (YouTube Huffington Post screengrab )

In 2013, Jackson left Florida and moved to Kansas, where he set up Equality House, an advocacy non-profit organisation that focuses on promoting a safe space for LGBT+ people, especially youth.

He said that when he painted the house with pride colours, the church community was critical online, but courteous offline - though he was worried about how they would react at first:

When we painted the house, I didn't know how the community was going to react. I was very nervous about that ... we created an escape route in the back of our house. Kansas does not have the best image when it comes to social issues.

People often think it looks like the North Korea - South Korea border. That we have missiles pointed at each other, ready to blow each other up. And that couldn't be any further from the truth.

When seven bullets were put through his window, church neighbours were the first to help and offered him their security footage.

He told the network:

Whether you like it or not, they're geniuses of publicity. They tweet vile things at us. Like, we're going to hell.

People from all across America come to visit the house.

Jackson said Equality House’ presence seems to be having a positive impact on some members of the church, with one former member telling him that his grandfather, founder Phelps-Roper, got kicked out of the church for showing sympathy towards the house.

“Even the hardest of hearts can soften,” he said.


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