Shock tactics only work to an extent. Taken too far, shock tactics eventually become terrorism. What was 9/11 if not an extremist group's ultra-extreme way of thrusting their cause into the limelight? It may not seem like it, but disrupting these funerals was only a stone's throw from terrorism. The offence they caused, the distress for the families and the furore in the media was the result of emotional terrorism, outraged that people could behave like this in the name of their "Christian" beliefs. And just as the people of New York arose from the ashes of 9/11 stronger and more virulent than before, so too have the LGBTQ community from such widespread coverage of this anti-gay propaganda.
Society is reactionary. Change only really comes after something unpleasant highlights an issue: Dunblane gave Britian some of the safest gun laws in the world; the Jimmy Saville and phone hacking scandals are fundamentally changing the way the media is behaving in the UK. Phelps created something that society as a whole has decided is so hateful, so distasteful and so abhorrent that clearly they must represent a cause to be distanced from. As such, they have pushed the fight for Gay Rights completely in the opposite direction than they intended.
Fred Phelps, 1929-2014. RIP.