Falwell Web foe tempers critiques with sympathy

Web site operator who prevailed in a high-profile legal spat over his domain name, which evokes the late televangelist's name, offers condolences but decries "homophobic bigotry and intolerance."

In his lifetime, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell had no shortage of critics, both in the offline and online worlds--and over the years, some in the latter category found themselves caught in his legal crosshairs over domain names resembling his own.

One of the higher-profile Web spats involved Christopher Lamparello, a thirtysomething gay man in New York. Since 1999, Lamparello has owned the Fallwell.com Web site, which housed articles aimed at contradicting the televangelist's antigay views. A few years ago, Falwell sued him, claiming the domain name's spelling was too close to that of his official Web presence and created a "likelihood of confusion," thus violating trademark laws.

A federal district court sided with the preacher, but an appeals court overturned that ruling. Not content to stop there, Falwell asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in, but the justices declined last year to take the case, leaving Fallwell.com to remain up and running.

But after news Tuesday of Falwell's sudden death at age 73--reportedly of heart failure--Lamparello's Web site adopted a somewhat different tone.

The articles attacking Falwell's views were no longer accessible from the home page. Instead, in stark white text on a navy blue background, Lamparello posted a brief note offering his "deepest sympathies" to Falwell's family--although he didn't back down on his disdain for the preacher's views.

"Although we have clearly been on opposite sides of the issues, there is no satisfaction in hearing of his passing," he wrote. "It was his homophobic bigotry and intolerance that we wanted to die, not him personally."

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    Anne Broache
    covers Capitol Hill goings-on and technology policy from Washington, D.C.
     

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