A gay couple from the Texas panhandle are planning to flee their small community after vandals scrawled ‘leave or die fags’ on their front porch.
Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers woke up on Monday (1 October) to see the abuse spray-painted outside their home in Clarendon – a town of just 2,000 people.
They now fear for their safety and point out that hatred towards them only started after a preacher posted an anti-gay message in a local newspaper.
Harrison states: ‘It was a nice message painted on our front porch right in front of our door,’ and that he and Jeffers reported the incident to police right away.
Donley County Sheriff Charles ‘Butch’ Blackburn said the authorities are currently investigating the vandalism and that he considers it a hate crime.
The couple who have been together for about a year and a half, have said the homophobic message has left them fearing for their lives.
Harrison added: ‘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.’
The couple say they have noticed a change in people’s attitudes towards them after an advert about the ‘homosexual movement’ was published in the local newspaper the Clarendon Enterprise by Pastor Chris Moore of the Clarendon Church of Christ.
In it, Moore warns the town: ‘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.’
Citing that it is due to the advert, Harrison said: ‘It’s funny that two weeks after this article comes out in the newspaper that people in town are starting to be rude to us and then we get out front porch vandalized.’
The pastor defended his advert by saying that it is based on facts but added he does not support the anti-gay attack the couple suffered.
‘What I wrote was facts and if I wrote something that wasn’t factual – I would gladly fix it… I don’t condone that type of behavior. It is un-Christian to vandalize or be violent to anybody,’ he said.
However Pronews 7 who brought the couple’s plight to wider attention suggested Moore’s ‘facts’ may not be exactly that.
In his article he cites a group called The National Coalition of Gay Organizations as having dictated the gay agenda. The only reference which can be found to that is a conference dating back to 1972.
The incident has left the couple so concerned, they are ‘trying to leave,’ Harrison said.
‘It’s sad,’ Jeffers added. ‘For the first time in my life, I have never felt this scared.’
Officials from Equality Texas, the state’s principal LGBT advocacy group, say that the couple should not be afraid to live in Clarendon.
‘Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers should not have to live in fear in their own home simply because of their sexual orientation,’ interim executive director Chuck Smith said. ‘No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/ expression.’
Smith also commented on Moore’s ad. Although, he said, the pastor is ‘entitled to his own beliefs,’ he takes issue with him teaching and preaching ‘homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric. It can inflame people to the point of violence.’
GOP Governor Rick Perry signed a bill into law in 2001 that added sexual orientation to the state’s hate crime laws despite Texas being considered a conservative state.
According to the 2007 crime in Texas report sexual orientation accounted for nearly 20 percent of hate crimes in Texas.
Watch the Pronews 7 report on the case here: