Naya Rivera defended costar Cory Monteith's memory without even knowing it. On Tuesday, July 16, Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to protest the 31-year-old Glee star's funeral because he starred on a show that featured gay characters. In an interview conducted before her costar's sudden death, Rivera told the August/September issue of Complex magazine that she was proud the Fox musical comedy-drama had diversity on the show.
"Having gay characters makes a difference, especially when you are a teenager and you need people to look up to. Your world feels so small," Rivera, 26, said. "The tiniest thing can make you think, 'I'm gonna die!' I'm glad Glee is around for people dealing with something that big in such a small world. It's important." (Rivera's character Santana Lopez was a lesbian on the show, while Monteith's character Finn was straight.)
Monteith was found dead in his Vancouver hotel on July 13, with coroners confirming Tuesday afternoon that he succumbed to an accidental overdose of heroin and alcohol. Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based extremist group known for its anti-gay sentiments, tweeted a series of disturbing messages on July 16, chastising Monteith for teaching "millions to sin." "PRAISE GOD ALMIGHTY for killing Cory Monteith -- a wicked f-- enabling sinner!" the church wrote. "Westboro Baptist Church to picket his funeral."
On July 15, Rivera released a public statement to The Hollywood Reporter as a tribute to Monteith.
"The entire Glee family and I are deeply saddened by this tragedy," she said. "Cory was and always will be a part of my own family and a good friend. He was a special part of this world and will forever be missed."
"My heart goes out to Cory's family and Lea," she continued, referring to costar and Monteith's girlfriend Lea Michele, "and while we are grateful for everyone's well wishes, privacy during this time of grief is greatly appreciated."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Naya Rivera: Glee's Gay Characters Make "a Difference"