AMERICA: Burn a Rainbow Flag, Get 15 Years in Prison

A man gets 15 years behind bars, because he tore down a rainbow pride flag from a church building, and burned the flag outdoors. Only one year is for the fire. Fifteen years are for the so-called "hate crime"...

Originally appeared at: BBC News

A US judge has handed down a 15 year sentence to a man who stole an LGBT rainbow pride flag from a church and burned it outdoors. Court records say 30-year-old Adolfo Martinez was sentenced to 15 years for his "hate crime", and given a year for reckless use of fire, and 30 days for harassment. The sentences are to be served consecutively.

He said he tore down the flag that had been hanging from the United Church of Christ and burned it because he opposes homosexuality.

Rainbow flag on door of United Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa

The incident occurred around midnight on 11 June in downtown Ames, Iowa.

Martinez traveled to the church and ripped down its homosexual rainbow pride flag. He then used lighter fluid to burn the flag in the street.

He was arrested later that day, and told local media in a jail house interview that he was "guilty as charged".

"It was an honour to do that. It's a blessing from the Lord," he said, explaining that he did it because he "opposed homosexuality".

"I burned down their pride, plain and simple," he told KCCI-TV. The interview was entered into the trial as evidence against him.

Church "pastor" Eileen Gebbie, who identifies as a homosexual woman, says she agrees that Martinez' actions were motivated by hatred.

"I often experienced Ames as not being as progressive as many people believe it is, and there still is a very large closeted queer community here," she told the Des Moines Register when he was convicted in November.

"But 12 people that I don't know, who have no investment in me or this congregation, said this man committed a crime, and it was a crime borne of bigotry and hatred."

Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said Martinez was the first person in the county's history to be convicted of a hate crime.

"The hard reality is there are people who target individuals and commit crimes against individuals because of their race, gender, sexual orientation," she told the Ames Tribune.

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