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2,000 protesters support gay rights

The poster was about 5 feet tall and read, in three lines:

"HOMO"

"SEX IS"

"SIN."

Debra Demske traveled Sunday from Winston-Salem to Newton to protest anti-gay remarks made this month by a Catawba County pastor. She took a marker and scrawled a single word on a sign of her own, then wove through the crowds of protesters gathered along U.S. 321 to reach the man holding the big poster.

She held up her sign — which said "AWESOME" — against his to cover up the word "SIN." Then she looked at the man, who declined to give his name, and smiled.

It was one gesture in a day of similar gestures that juxtaposed two sides of an issue that has divided North Carolina.

Starting about 9:30 a.m. Sunday, more than 2,000 protesters descended on Newton, a small town of about 13,000 near Hickory. The town is about 12 miles from Providence Road Baptist Church, where Pastor Charles Worley gave a sermon May 13 that suggested gay people should be rounded up, placed in a sort of concentration camp, and left to die.

Sunday's protest was organized by Appalachian State University student Laura Tipton and backed by a group calling itself Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate. Most of the protesters supported same-sex marriage and equal rights; about 100 people came to support Worley and to stand against homosexuality.

Tipton, who said she had never attended a protest before Sunday, organized it after seeing a YouTube video of Worley's sermon.

That sermon, she said, "was a message of hate, a message of intolerance, a message of genocide, and not something we in this community could support."

"Love and acceptance are two of the most important things you can give to someone else," Tipton said. "You don't need to hate somebody just because they're different."

The protest was mainly peaceful, though at times the two sides clashed.

One preacher, Billy Ball — who is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Primrose, Ga. — spoke into a bullhorn, calling out Bible verses and calling on supporters of same-sex marriage to repent.

"God loves you, yes, he does," Ball called out. "But he does not love your sin. And homosexuality is the most tolerated, petted, pampered sin in the United States of America."

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TAGGED: HATE, HUMAN RIGHTS, SEXUALITY, SOCIETY


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