The tables were turned on the Westboro Baptists — or what’s left of them — as gay-marriage advocates in Rhode Island yesterday picketed the religious-zealot activists right back. Only instead of spouting hateful vitriol, the counter-strikers preached a message of love.

The Baptists were protesting the state’s recent move to allow same-sex weddings. But while gay nuptials were once an anomaly, they are slowly becoming the norm. Rhode Island is the thirteenth state to allow homosexuals to legally wed, and while this hardly creates a majority, the Supreme Court’s recent rulings could impel more states to follow suit.

Legal or not, Americans are growing more tolerant of same-sex marriage by the minute. About 55 percent of the population agrees with it, up from 47 percent in 2008 and way up from just 32 percent 10 years ago. Most importantly, 80 percent of people under 30 support gay marriage, making it easy to see which way the wind is blowing.

As tolerance increases, objectors like the folks at Westboro have nowhere to go but down. The group built its political platform on the anti-gay agenda, and that platform is crumbling quickly. Beyond politics, the church’s tactics leave a sour taste in the mouths of the most people — Westboro made a name for themselves in 2006 by picketing the funeral of U.S. Marine Matthew Snyder, sporting signs that read “God hates fags” and “Thank god for dead soldiers.” A class act, all the way.

So as their shock value wears thin and Americans abandon the anti-gay-marriage cause,  Westboro’s days in the limelight appear numbered. In the Rhode Island protest, fewer than a dozen Baptists showed up — but hundreds of gay-rights supporters were on the scene to negate their intolerance. This could be the beginning of the end. I won’t miss them.

image: Great Beyond