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Kansas Equality Groups Ask for Respect for Phelps Family

Family members of 84-year-old Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps have confirmed that he's in hospice care in Topeka and may be near death.

The group is known for funeral protests that have created a lot of anger, but equality groups are asking for a different response to Phelp's condition.

Stephanie Mott is with the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, or K-STEP. She's a transgender woman. She has traveled the nation giving presentations on LGBT issues and often hears the same question over and over.

"When somebody finds out that I'm from Topeka, the first question they have is 'well, how do you feel living in the same city as Westboro Baptist Church?'" says Mott.

Members of the church have drawn national attention with their protests at funerals and signs with anti-gay slurs. But equality organizations are hoping people will not respond to the news about Fred Phelps with the same level of vitriol. Mott is asking people to be respectful of the Phelps family.

"That's what we're asking, is for people to treat us with dignity and respect. How can we ask for that if we're not willing to give that to other people?" says Mott.

Church members protest at military funerals because they say military deaths are god's punishment for the nation tolerating homosexuality.

Stephen Koranda is the managing editor of the Kansas News Service, based at KCUR. He has nearly 20 years of experience in public media as a reporter and editor.