Well here's a heartwarming day-after-Christmas story.
Dr. Mary Pham, a resident of Irvine, California, decided last April to show her support for the LGBT community by raising a rainbow flag. Not a big deal--just a small, but strong, message that she stands on the side of love and equality. But it was a big deal to her anti-gay neighbors who had no problem hanging American or seasonal flags but did not think the neighborhood had any place for an affirmation of LGBT acceptance.
From an OC Weekly article on the controversy:
Pham's not a complete stranger to the spotlight. A Vietnamese American chiropractic doctor who came to the United States following the fall of Saigon, Pham has three (mostly) adult children and used to host a daytime talk-radio program on KUCI-FM 88.9 that attempted to shatter stereotypes about living behind the Orange Curtain. In a June 2012 edition of her show, Pham said that, though she often does not speak highly of Irvine, it was ultimately "a pretty good place to live."And her friend did warn her:
She first flew the flag following a ceremony with friends in June. "It took me a long time to find my flag to hang, so when I did, [my friend] Ramon and I decided that we should do a fun ceremonial event," she says. "Most of my friends here in Orange County rent rooms, so they do not have the luxury of hanging anything. . . . We all decided that [my flag] was pride for all of us—that's why it was a big event. We invited all of our friends of all colors to come to share."
The flag prominently hung from one of the tallest structures in Orangetree. It immediately drew attention, with initial complaints first directed to the neighborhood's property-management company, PowerStone Property Management.
Not in Irvine, Mary.Her friend accurately predicted the neighborhood response. In July, Pham was told that many e-mail complaints had been sent to her Home Owners Association. One such e-mail referred to the flag as the "Fag Flag." Lovely. This particular peach of an individual went on to say:
Is the GAY PRIDE [in large font and rainbow colors] display protected by free speech rights? The Orange Tree Patio Homes neighbors are shaking their heads in disgust. Sexuality is private, and Kurt's display is very, very public. It's even visible from the tennis courts.From the tennis courts, even!
Another e-mail lamented:
[The residents]...have had their 'gay pride' flag up for six to eight weeks. The flag has two wedding rings interlocked and many rainbow-colored stripes. It is an eyesore. In my opinion, it is okay to feel strongely [sic] about a cause. But to leave their 'political statement' up for this long is ridiculous, and I am offended. Most people do not choose the gay lifestyle, and personally, it irritates me to have to be reminded every day of two men having sex with each other. It's not a fun thing to look at as I come and go every day. If someone left their sign up regarding an election for more than a week or two, it would get very old and be an eyesore.Community manager Amanda McGinley replied to one of the e-mails:
We have not had any calls yet about the flag on the home...But I did see it on the property inspection and contacted legal counsel to see if the HOA can do anything about it. Civil Code does provide protection for homeowners to put up flags, banners and noncommercial signs, and the Association can do nothing to prohibit it. I have a feeling that this will not last long, but I could be wrong.Pham continued to fly the flag. But she understandably became more nervous about it. Upon the advice of the executive director of her local LGBT center, Pham filed a police report, just in case. Then, the neighbor reactions became more hostile. A Westboro Baptist Church flyer was printed out and left at her door, and a flyer was left on her windshield that said "GOD HATES FLAGS."
Pham's resolve became all the more hardened:
Before, it was just a flag. Now, I’m going to fight back.And fight back she did this Christmas. After discussing the matter with her son Russell, Pham decided to take her display of support for the LGBT community to the next level. Perhaps that's an understatement.
It was a very gay Christmas in Pham's Irvine neighborhood. And there wasn't a damn thing her bigoted neighbors could do about it.