Two rainbow flags which had stood in front of a North Carolina church have been burned.
The flags — recognized internationally as symbols of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride — went up in flames Friday night outside the United Church of Christ in Hillsborough, reports The News & Observer, a local paper.
Church members found the scorched remains of the flags Saturday morning. In response, the church raised a new set of rainbow flags the same day.
Rev. Jay Kennett said the banners had been erected three weeks ago, after the Republican-led legislature passed a sweeping anti-LGBT law known as House Bill 2, “to let the [LGBT] community know there was a church that supported them and welcomed them.”
“Sad,” he said of their destruction. “I just grieve that somebody would do that.”
The flags had held special significance for James and Brent Denisar-Green. The same-sex couple from Durham had waved the flags in a Pride march alongside members of their congregation. They wed last year in the church.
“I don’t know how you can’t take it personally,” Brent told the paper.
“What crossed my mind was how hateful,” he continued. “I just couldn’t believe somebody would do that, especially to a church.”
His partner, James, had been initially hesitant to join the church before finding a supportive community there. He had a message for the fire-starters, who are unknown at present.
“I would challenge them to come and actually visit our church,” he said. “We’re open to all, even those who burn flags.”
In March, North Carolina Gov. McCrory signed House Bill 2, which strikes down LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinances in cities and counties statewide and prohibits cities from adopting any new ones. It also expressly requires transgender people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match their gender identity.