Friday, March 7, 2014

Politico Magazine: A gay father, a dead son—and the bigoted church that judged them both wrong.

By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- Sometimes a story within a story is more fascinating and compelling than what the public ends up reading as there are oft times circumstances which prevent the whole story from being told. Nearly nine  years ago a bereaved father took on the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in a lawsuit that reached the highest court in the land that stemmed from Westboro's protest at his Marine son's funeral.
The Topeka, Kansas-based church led by pastor Fred Phelps is notorious for its angry, anti-gay protests, “God hates fags” signs, and picketing at funerals of deceased U.S. military personnel.
The case began when Albert Snyder, the father of U. S. Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, who was killed in combat in Iraq in 2006, sued Westboro, saying those protests amounted to targeted harassment and an intentional infliction of emotional distress on the families of deceased service members. Albert Snyder won $11 million during that first trial, later reduced by a judge to $5 million which the church appealed. 
The case wound its way through the federal courts and in 2011, The Westboro Baptist Church won a significant victory when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of its right to promote what its church members call a “broad-based message” on public matters such as wars.
At least that was the story that the media told and the public read and watched.
But there was another story, hidden, unknown save for a select few, that paints an even more compelling backstory to the tragedy of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder's death and the circumstances surrounding his father's fight to protect the memory of his son and to save other families from the trauma of the experience of a protest by the Westboro church.
CNN host and journalist Michael Smerconish reveals in a Politico cover story Friday that Albert Snyder was gay and tragically lost the love of his partner of 14 years to cancer not long after the Supreme Court ruled against him:
Walt Fisher’s obituary, after he lost his battle with lung cancer, was notable for what it didn’t reveal. 
When the 57-year-old from York, Pa., died in the spring of 2011, the local Daily Record reported his place of birth (Hershey); the names of his parents (Harold and Mary, née Spangler); his employer (JoS. A. Bank Clothiers); and even his hobbies (music, reading and spending time at the beach). 
Reference was also made to those who survived him: “a brother, Patrick E. Kling, and his wife, Wendy of Hummelstown; a step-brother, David Kling, and his wife, Susan of Harrisburg; a nephew, Noah Kling; and an aunt, Doris Eby of Hershey.” 
Despite listing some of those Fisher held dear, the obituary was silent about the most important person in his life for his final 14 years: Nothing was said of Albert Snyder....... ( Read more here. )

Michael Smerconish is host of the new CNN program “Smerconish,” which debuts Saturday, March 8, at 9 a.m. EST and will feature more on this story, including an exclusive interview with Albert Snyder.