big-ass wings

Kids with the moral fire and mischief of youth. Nothin’ like it.


The angel on the left is my daughter, Nora. The angel on the right is her friend Kelsey. The people behind them are – well, I’ll let you judge for yourself. I think not angels.

The backstory dates to October 1998, when Matthew Shepard was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyoming. When Fred Phelps, the notoriously hateful homophobic preacher, brought his bile to Laramie to protest at Matthew’s funeral, people were dumbfounded. When he returned to protest again at the trial of one of Matthew’s assailants, Romaine Patterson was ready:
(click through for more)

I decided someone needed to stand toe to toe with this guy and show the differences. And I think that at times like this when the world is talking about hatred as much as it is right now, that someone really needs to show the difference. So our idea is to dress up as angels. And so we’ve designed an angel outfit. Our wings are huge. They’re like big ass wings. And there’s gonna be like ten to twenty of us that are angels. And because of our big ass wings we’re gonna COM-PLETE-LY block him. So this big ass band of angels comes in. And we don’t say a fucking word. We are a group of people bringing forth a message of peace and love and hope. And we’re calling it Angel Action. Yeah, this twenty-one-year-old little lesbian’s ready to walk the line with him.

When Fred Phelps’ motley entourage came to Albuquerque, Nora and her friend made wings – big-ass wings.

The Phelpsites set up on one corner at the entrance to the University of New Mexico, and the counter-protesters set up on the other. And out of that crowd of counter-protesters emerged three angels, with these really big-ass wings.

Nora leading the angels

They turned their back on the Phelpsies, and they raised their wings, and they just stood there.

angels raising their wings

After a few minutes, the cops, who were being pretty diligent about trying to keep the Phelpsoids and the counter-demonstrators apart, politely asked Angel Nora and her friends to take their big-ass wings back across the street. Which they did. They’re good kids. They made their point.

more angels

Justin, who played Matthew Shepard when the kids did The Laramie Project last fall, held one pair of wings for a while.


I found the sight incredibly moving.


  1. Is this for real. I found your site by chance. Your linked angel idea is lovely and the idea of blocking out thoses freaks behind them is a nice idea. I must admit coming from London, Endland, to see signs like those behind seems like a cartoon. surely they are an incitement to violence and therefore illegal ! all the best Al Green

  2. i cant tell you how happy i am to see people speaking out against hate. those signs really get to me. god doesnt hate anyone. thank you for taking a stand. -meri

  3. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

    By being the bigger person and quietly standing for love, peace, and acceptance, you showed the world that day who is truly Christ-like and who is not. No one preaching hate was EVER backed by God and never will be.


  5. i was looking for WINGS on and i found these really big-ass wings, i have read the story it is very impressive, the fight against hate ad fascism will never have end

    greeting from Roma(IT)

  6. hola, soy karla una chica de 17 años,al enterarme de esto tuve terror, al ver como pudieron averle hacho esto a un ser humano…´´vive y deja vivir´´ una de las fraces mas dichas en laramie wyoming, me gustaria que no solo se dijera en ese estado, si no que se gritara por todo el mundo,el hecho de que una persona tenga diferentes ideas o preferencias no da derecho a acerle algo tan malo a una persona,no soy homosexual, pero yo apoyo a toda la comunidad gay del mundo,el tener terror a mostrarse como son por medio a las represarias no es vida, el no poder dar tus ideas u opiniones por miedo a que se enteren lo que eres y lo que quieres, eso es injusto!,estamos en el 2006! todo esta lleno de tecnologia pero a la ves lleno de ignorancia y prejuicios,lo que le sucedio a matt, es solo un ejemplo de lo que pasa dia a dia en cada pais, el racismo en las escuelas, trabajos, comunidades, sociedad, en fin! no se vale, si no daña a nadie no hay porque opinar asi,apoyemos a las personas y veamos que no solo porque sean o quieran una cosa son malos, no , conozcamos lo que ay a fondo y sus sentimientos tambien, en fin.. mis condolencias a la familia shepard y todo mi apoyo a la comunidad homosexual gracias, y hasta luego… karla, 17 años de mexico DF 🙂

  7. I just read The Laramie Project about what happened to Matthew Shepard and I feel completely moved about the Angel Action. Keep fighting against hate!

  8. Hola tengo 27 años y lo de matthew me conmovio bastante, no hay dia en que no piense en él, porque lamentablemente este mundo no se a hecho para las personas que aman de una manera diferente, desde que me entere de la muerte de matthew mi vida es mas infeliz de lo que era, nadie entendio su manera de ser, este mundo es tan cruel con las personas diferentes, el por darse a conocerse tal cual era le costo morir asi de una forma tan cruel e inhumana, por eso mucho de nosotros prefiere vivir en mentiras y a escondidas como si esto el de ser diferente fuera una aberracion. como me hubiera gustado que esta historia de matthew shepard hubiera terminado diferente como me hubiera gustado de que el al final de todo hubiere sido feliz, aunque se que en donde quiera que este el , va estar feliz porque personas como matthew se ganan el cielo, como me gustaria retroceder el tiempo y haberle yo defendido de esos cerdos que le provocaron la muerte. pero se que no se puede. solo me reconforta la esperanza de que él descanza lejos de este mundo que no le entendio y que le desprecio incluso despues de su muerte. te quiero matthew

  9. That is the most moving thing i have ever seen in my life. Brings me to tears everytime. Isn’t it amazing how such a small thing can leave such an impact. Support everyone for who they are. Gay, straight, black, white…it shouldn’t matter. No one deserves what happened to Matt. Rest in Pease Matthew.

  10. Being different is what people hate. But the thing is, we are all different and that is what makes us special. Being bi-sexual i never thought was a problem until my friends found out and now im a freak. Now im some how not worthy of thier time. Im a “fag”. But what i want people to do is to watch the movie, is to see the wings. Because the haters behind are certainly no angels. Rest in peace Matthew.

  11. this is amazing. it is people like this that gives me hope for our future. i cant even express in words how beautiful what the counter protesters did. my heart goes to them and everyone like them.

  12. We have recently started to prepare for our school production “The Laramie Project” reading through the script brought me to tears…especially when the angel action took place..We should look up to these people and reconize their achivement. They stood up for something they believed in and help us to realise how horrible what happen to Matt is.lets follow suit and not hate, dislike maybe, but never hate..”he came into the world premature and left premature” Many belive it was because he was gay, so do i, but we need to address all hate crimes with the same attitude, this is wrong and no boy, girl, mother, or father or animal should have to have their life ended for such a heartless act..
    Lets continue to fight this battle and stay true to ourselves and be who we are..Matt was gay and proud!!!!!!!!So BE YOU AND BE PROUD!!!!!!!!
    16yr old nz student


  14. After reading THe laramie project it made me see things differently. Homosexuality is not something with which i agree with but now i am disgusted and uterly shocked at the extent that a human can hate and in the case of Matthew Shepard resulting in a yound death.
    Angel action group are amazing and they should be praized.
    God bless you all.
    And God bless Matt!

  15. Thanks. Try visiting their website and sending them protest letters. They say they’ve heard it and won’t listen, but oh they do. Oh, and also, use the following e-mail: They can not respond then.

  16. Hey John Doe,
    Fuck my ass: Ever thought that maybe he was also killed because he gay? Besides, we aren’t even talking about him; we are talking about that prostitution club that protests at American heros’ funerals. If you want to complain, then join that group and tell them while you are condemned to eternal fire.

  17. hey John Doe…he wasn’t killed for drugs, dont be dumb. The idiots who killed him told him they were GAY!!! That way they cld confuse him and kill him…Don’t be so insensitive!

    I love this article and this story is truly moving…i hope every person who reads this looks at these things in a different perspective… “Love is BLIND!”
    much love,

  18. i never ever had even heard of matthew shepard until my school was having this play called the laramne project and i went and was so shocked that cried as soon as it was over matter of fact while the show was gonig on . all the details that they had it was like i was right there experiencing i am so saddend that that had happened to him he was just a baby and when i heard that they had a documentary on it i had to get get my condolences goes out to his family and his friends i believe that no one should ever be treated like that and god rest his soul oxoxoxoxoxo

  19. My friends and I just went and saw the Laramie Project today. Your strengh and courage will be a guiding light for me in the feature. Your…. Big Ass wings.. *smiles* will always be a a symbal of love for me and what you can do for a friend, family or community.

  20. When I was a kid, I remember choked up like this reading about the middle-aged women in Europe who dressed in giant pink bunny costumes, crossed the razor wire, and danced on the nuclear missile silos to protest the cold war. These pictures gave me the same heart-swelling pride. Thank you for sharing this story. This inspires me to face the hate and injustice that touches my life with big ass wings, as an angel. Brilliant.

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