A man who removed and burned an LGBTQ Pride Banner flying from the Ames, Iowa United Church of Christ in June was sentenced Wednesday to 16 years in prison, 15 for a hate crime of arson and given a year for reckless use of explosives or fire and 30 days for harassment.
Adolfo Martinez admitted to burning the flag and told local news media that he had “no regrets” about the event.
The convicted arsonist said, “I burned down their pride, plain and simple. It was my honor to burn it and stand for the Lord.”
The Rev. Eileen Gebbie, the church’s senior minister, herself a homosexual, said, “The banner featured a rainbow flag with the message, “God is still speaking, it’s a message of inclusion.”
“Yes, there are parts of the Bible that say pretty direct things about gay sex,” she said.
“But we believe God is still speaking to us through the Bible and through each other, through prayer, through worship and because of that we’ve been able to get to a place where we can affirm all of God’s children, including queer people,” Gebbie said.
In contrast to the LGBTQ flag and protections, a debate over burning the American flag has raged in America since 1968 when protestors burned American flags to protest the military conflict in Vietnam.
Since that time there have been numerous lawsuits over the act of desecrating the American flag, but no criminal charges or jail time has been given for the burning the flag.
The proliferation of of so-called “Hate crime laws” in America, which when applied, can unevenly determine which groups receive special status or protection, has resulted in affording certain groups the freedom from consequences while still others find themselves at the business end of the billy club.
Debate over tying sexual identity and sexual preferences to civil rights protections is increasingly dividing Americans nationwide.
For their part, classical liberals and constitutional conservatives question the political left’s point of view that burning the American Flag qualifies as free speech while at the same time espousing the seemingly contradictory position that some flags deserve special hate crime protections