An Iowa man was sentenced to serve 16 years behind bars after he tore down a rainbow flag symbolizing gay pride from the front of a church and burned it.
Adolfo Martinez, 30, was found guilty of a felony hate crime and third-degree harassment after he tore down the pride flag displayed in front of the United Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa. Martinez ripped down the flag and walked it over to Dangerous Curves Gentleman’s Club, where police say he was a regular.
Martinez, who has two other felonies, received the maximum sentence of 16 years for his crimes because he was a habitual offender. When he committed the crimes in June, he told KCCI that he did it because he despises homosexuality.
“It was an honor to do that. It was a blessing from the Lord,” Martinez said. “It is a judgment, and it is written to execute vengeance on the heathen and punishments upon the people.”
He added, “I burned down their pride. Plain and simple.”
Martinez pleaded not guilty despite saying he had no plans to fight the charges and claiming, “I’m guilty. Guilty as charged.”
Rev. Eileen Gebbie, the senior minister at United Church of Christ who happens to be gay herself, said, “It doesn’t feel good. However, it’s not going to slow us down. We won’t change.”
Gebbie told the Des Moines Register that she was pleased that a jury found Martinez guilty because she doesn’t believe Ames is welcoming to gay people.
“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,” Gebbie explained. “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 crime born of bigotry and hatred.”
Gebbie did, however, say she will forgive Martinez for his actions and hoped that he’d change his outlook on gay individuals.
“He is our neighbor, and I would be glad to know him and to welcome him here to this space,” she said.
Author: Madison Dibble
Source: Washington Examiner: Man sentenced to 16 years in prison for burning church’s pride flag