News Briefs: Harvard Group Tackles Health Issues; Phelps Visits Boston

by Ethan Jacobs
Thursday Feb 26, 2009

In brief: Phelps to tour greater Boston again. Harvard Law LGBT group tackles health disparities at conference.

Phelps Plans Boston-area Return

Fred Phelps, the Topeka, Kansas-based hate-monger who travels across the country with his family brandishing their iconic "God Hates Fags" picket signs, is no stranger to the Boston area. The Phelps clan has made several trips to the Bay State; most recently they came to the South End last December to protest a performance of The Laramie Project. They must have enjoyed their time here (Maybe it’s the great seafood? The Duck Tours perhaps?), because next month Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church are going to be spending quite a lot of time up here, at least according to a new volley of press releases sent out over the last several days.

On two consecutive Fridays, March 13 and March 20, the Phelps clan will do a series of all-day pickets across the Boston area. They’ll start the Boston leg of their Homo Hatefest 2009 tour the morning of March 13, with a picket outside the LGBT-friendly Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Next they’ll head to Hanscom Air Force Base in Lexington to protest the military, which, according to their press release, is "riddled with fags and dykes," followed by a stop to protest at Lexington High School. That evening the Phelps family will head up to Reading to protest a performance of The Laramie Project at Reading High School.

The following week, on March 20, Phelps and company will return to Boston, protesting outside East Boston High School that morning; Phelps’ press release claims the school teaches that "it’s OK to be gay." Next they’ll head to Beacon Hill to protest in front of the "fag-infested State House," followed by a trip to 20 Park Plaza to protest the consulates general of Israel, Brazil, Peru and Mexico, nations Phelps argues "promote sodomy sin." Later that morning the Phelps clan will cross the river to protest at Harvard University, and in the afternoon they’ll end their hate tour with a picket at Canton High School for good measure.

In between the legs of their Boston tour they’ve made time to swing through Tulsa, Oklahoma, to protest the Elton John and Billy Joel concert taking place March 17. Their press release warns that "God hates the fat, filthy, British pervert, Elton John." Okay, Lestat: The Musical was pretty horrendous, but let’s not get carried away here.

Whoever planned the Phelps family itinerary for their time in Boston clearly doesn’t have much understanding of how much time it can take to get from place to place in our fair metropolis. They’ve budgeted 15 minutes to get from East Boston High to the State House. Good luck with that.

Harvard Law LGBT group tackles health disparities at conference

HLS Lambda, the LGBT student group at Harvard Law School, has a track record for picking cutting edge topics for its annual conference - last year’s topic was transgender rights, which is now the lead priority of Bay State LGBT advocates - and this year’s fourth annual Harvard Lambda Legal Advocacy (HaLLA) Conference will continue that trend as the organization examines LGBT health disparities and the law.

The conference, which runs from Feb. 27-28 on the law school campus, is free and open to the public. HLS Lambda co-president Alvin Lee said conference organizers hope the event draws a diverse crowd of attorneys and law students, medical professionals, LGBT advocates and others interested in the topic.

"We wanted to pick a topic that we thought addressed the needs of every single person in the community. ... We did try to consider the audience, trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible," said Lee.

He said legal issues around health disparities impact all segments of the LGBT community, from married couples trying to use reproductive technologies to have children to transgender people trying to get health coverage for gender reassignment surgery. Another benefit of focusing on health disparities, Lee pointed out, is because it’s a topic where there are still many unresolved legal issues and many opportunities for interesting discussion. And he said the attorneys and law students at the conference would benefit from the insights of medical providers and advocates sitting on panels and in the audience.

"I think that lawyers obviously contribute a lot to the conversation, but there’s also a lot that lawyers don’t know," said Lee.

The conference features a variety of panel discussions with panelists both within and outside the legal field, on topics including disability law, HIV/AIDS, family law issues, and health disparities in the prison system, among others. The conference will open with a lunch Feb. 27 and close with an awards dinner the next day.

Lee said registration is free, and people can register either online or on site. He said all are welcome, and even those who do not wish to formally register may attend.

"We really welcome everyone and are trying to get everyone to come," said Lee.

To register or for more information on the conference visit

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