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Keith Orr.

Sparked a national trend by turning a Fred Phelps protest into a gay fund-raiser

Most gay men and lesbians greet the news that notorious homophobe Fred Phelps is coming to their town with chagrin or a protest or both. But when Keith Orr, co-owner of the Aut Bar in Ann Arbor, Mich., discovered his establishment was about to be the target of a Phelps demonstration, he found an ingenious way to fight back. Orr sent out 270 E-mails to friends and acquaintances, announcing that he intended to pledge $1 for every minute the Topeka, Kan., religious zealot protested in front of the bar. He encouraged others to make some kind of pledge too. Any money collected would go to a local gay and lesbian community group. By the time Phelps and his cronies packed up, Orr had collected $7,500 for the town's gay and lesbian community center.

Thanks to the power of the Internet, word of Orr's clever plan spread quickly, and now lesbian and gay organizations across the country are cashing in on Phelps sightings. Pledge drives have taken place in towns and cities from Boston to San Francisco. In Topeka the pledge drive for the city's symphony (which Phelps protests annually based on the assumption that the orchestra must be full of homos) was directly inspired by Orr. This year's pledge campaign: "Every Minute Counts."

Orr, who has taken on the unofficial role of adviser to the growing number of pledge drives, says he receives E-mails daily asking for advice on how to pull off a fund-raiser. But the momentum behind the idea, Orr says, is only marginally about raising money. "It gives people a constructive way to combat a destructive person," he says. It may also give Phelps a reason to think twice before he stages too many more hate vigils.
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Title Annotation:starts trend of pledge drives against demonstrations by homophobe Fred Phelps to raise money for gay causes
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 14, 2001
Words:305
Previous Article:Colonial outpost.
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