A local high school's effort to support its gay students has drawn the ire of the Westboro Baptist Church, provoking the divisive, Kansas-based group to plan a protest next month in the District.
On Wednesday, mayoral candidate David Catania, an openly gay member of the D.C. Council, called on residents of the city to stand with students at Woodrow Wilson High School "in support of tolerance and respect."
The Northwest D.C. school will host a Pride Day on June 4, welcoming more than 20 organizations with support and services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students into its atrium for a midday event.
Five days later, the WBC is planning an anti-gay protest on the sidewalk outside the school, attempting to catch the attention of students as they arrive for morning classes.
"This generation cannot find wisdom at any of their institutions of elementary, secondary or post-secondary education," organizers declared in a release posted to Westboro's website on Sunday. The group is targeting Wilson for providing resources to gay students.
Last year, Wilson made history as the first public school in D.C. to have a pride celebration.
Catania spoke with the principal, faculty and students behind the second annual event and thanked them for their work. Some have announced plans to organize a peaceful counterprotest.
"As I told the students, they are reaffirming the District’s legacy of inclusiveness and respect," he said in a release.
"This is the city where Mildred and Richard Loving sought refuge and the freedom to love the person of their choice when the state of Virginia barred them from marrying because of the difference in the color of their skin," he continued, referring to the landmark civil rights decision that invalidated laws barring interracial marriage. "More recently, it is the same city that was at the forefront of the fight for Marriage Equality."
Catania, a Republican-turned-independent who spent much of his childhood in Kansas, is urging D.C. residents to back the students against the protesters.