On Monday, October 1, Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers woke to find an ominous message spray painted outside of their home in Clarendon, Texas, “Leave or Die Fags.” The death threat comes only two weeks after an ad was published in a local paper, the Clarendon Enterprise, warning residents of the “homosexual movement.”
The ad, which appears like and has been referred to as an article, claims that the “homosexual movement” seeks to repeal all laws banning prostitution, governing the age of consent, and, among other things, governing the sex and number of people who can enter into a marriage “unit.” The ad further claims that the “gay agenda” and President Obama want to allow children to become the prey of pedophiles, stating:
Folks, don’t be fooled, the ‘gay’ agenda isn’t about ‘equal’ rights for gay couples. Their agenda would force everyone to compromise their values, make our children legal prey for pedophiles. There could be no prosecution of the perverts who focus on kids. Prostitution would become legalized and be considered normal. Our president, Barack Obama has come out in support of gay marriage. One you start giving in and compromising, where does it stop?
Since the ad ran, human rights activists and advocates have rallied on behalf of the LGBT community and Joshua and Jeremy. Equality Texas issued a statement noting:
Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers should not have to live in fear in their own home simply because of their sexual orientation. No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
Sadly, the outpouring of support hasn’t made the couple feel safer. “I’m absolutely terrified because if there are people in this town that are willing to go to the lengths to vandalize our house and to scare us, they might be going the lengths to do physical harm on us,” Joshua Harrison said. In fact, the couple has indicated that they are now trying to leave.
As an open and obviously queer Texan, people often ask me why I don’t move somewhere more “liberal” and “accepting” than the “State of Hate.” I often generically respond, “Texas is my home. I will defend my home.” However, that statement isn’t entirely true. The fact is that hate and intolerance know no boundaries. Like LGBTQ people, bigotry is everywhere. Whether you are LGBTQ in Texas or California, you are at risk of being harassed, fired, beaten or even murdered. In 2010, California reported the most hate crimes of any state with 1,331 incidents according to FBI statistics, with many of the more recent crimes being against people because of their perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression. While the large number is likely due to more responsible reporting and a broader understanding of what constitutes a “hate crime” by California’s officials and residents, it still evidences that suspect groups are in danger, even in liberal environments.
No one knows the answer – but all too often our only choices are “fight” or “flight.” In those instances, each of us must do what it is that makes us feel safe, even if that safety is an illusion. Whether we move, arm ourselves, become political activists or hide fearfully in the closet, what matters most in the end is that we live.
Images via Pronews 7 video
Jay Morris is a State Lead for GetEQUAL.org, a founding member of the Direct Action Network San Antonio and blogger at jaysays.com. You can find him posting randomness on Twitter or engage him in conversation on Facebook.
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