“Coming out [as gay] to my entire school was incredibly liberating,” Jake Bain, a senior at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, told ABC News. “My entire community has been so supportive and accepting of me. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be.”
Bain, a star running back, is headed to Indiana State University to play football next year. He announced he is gay last year at a school assembly on National Coming Out Day.
Calling Bain a “beast” who is “vaunted as the best thing that has happened to football since Knute Rockne,” referring to the famed Notre Dame football coach, Westboro announced plans in February to protest the teen.
That’s when Bain took action.
“Jake contacted us once Westboro announced they were going to protest him,” Landon Brownfield, a spokesman for Pride STL and the primary organizer of the counter-protesters who stood in opposition to Westboro earlier this week, told ABC News. “He asked if there was anything we can do, so we organized an event to support him.”
Bain said, “I went on their website and saw some pretty awful things they said about me and I got pretty upset.”
The controversial Topeka, Kansas-based church has also protested at military funerals in the past, arguing that God is punishing the United States for tolerating homosexuality.
Brownfield estimates as many as 400 people turned up outside Bain’s school, holding signs with messages of support, some dressed in rainbow colors to represent the pride flag, to counter-protest a small group of Westboro supporters who picketed the school.
“There were grandparents out there,” Brownfield said. “There were three generations there to show their support.”
“The supporters of me and my school completely drowned out the Westboro Baptist Church protesters,” Bain said.
“I realized that if an international hate group is coming to protest me, then I must be doing something right.”