Pro-gay activists dressed as guardian angels spread their wings at the funeral of a victim of the Orlando nightclub massacre to ensure members of the anti-LGBT Westboro Baptist Church were unable to disrupt the event. The angels' white outfits – complete with 8ft-wings – were made by volunteers from Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. The 'angels' first appeared in 1998 at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man murdered in Wyoming.
Funeral-goers for victim Christopher Leinonen had been warned that followers of the Westboro cult would try and attend and so came up with ideas – including a huge rainbow screen – to block the funeral from view and block out their hate-filled placards. Members of Westboro have previously picketed the funerals of servicemen killed in Iraq and claimed the September 11 attacks were God's way of punishing the US for its "sodomite" ways.
Although Westboro Baptist Church is perhaps the best-known of the many religious extremists promoting a vicious anti-gay agenda, they aren't alone. Last week video surfaced of Sacramento Baptist Pastor Roger Jimenez telling his congregation: "When people ask me if I'm sad that 50 sodomites died. Here's the problem, it's the equivalent of asking me, hey, are you sad that 50 paedophiles were killed today? Erm, no, I think that's great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida's a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn't die, I'm upset he didn't finish the job, because these people are predators, they're abusers."
It is still unclear exactly what provoked Omar Mateen's murderous rampage at the Pulse nightclub, where he killed 49 people before being killed in a shoot-out with police. He had reportedly pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) and made anti-gay comments, but according to many reports was uncertain about his own sexuality. The massacre has once again raised the subjects of gun control, Islam and homophobia in the US.