son's gift of a colorful flag he found while staying with
his grandparents in California has put his parents in the
middle of controversy in the small town of Meade, Kan.
J.R. and Robin Knight say they knew the rainbow flag
was a symbol of gay rights when they decided last
month to fly it on a pole in front of their business, the
Lakeway Hotel. But that isn't why they flew the banner.
"We just put it up. We didn't think about it,"
Robin says. "It has pretty colors, it's bright, it's
summery." And, J.R. Knight says, it was a symbolic way
to have their son nearby.
The decision prompted controversy in the town of
1,600, and eventually someone cut the flag down. It's
also prompted an Internet-fueled debate on gay rights
in rural America, and the Knights say they have received
messages of support from around the world.
Now, the Knights say, they are determined to
replace the flag and keep it flying. Waitress Vicky
Best says such a flag has no place in Meade.
"It's hard enough to keep your kids on the
straight and narrow without outside influences like
that," she complains. "We stay in a small town to stay
away from the crap like that that's happening in big
cities," she says, calling homosexuality "biblically wrong."
But retiree Charles Helms says he doesn't care
if the Knights fly the flag. "If he wants to fly that
thing, let him fly it," Helms says. "I don't have a
problem at all because I know the story behind it."
The Knights say they have no problems with gay
people but that they have never taken a role in the
gay rights movement. They moved to Meade two years ago
from Southern California to pursue their dream of operating
The Knights say the anger displayed by some
residents has strengthened their resolve to keep the
rainbow flag flying. Flying the flag not only protests
discrimination, they say, but they also believe that giving
in to the pressure would send the wrong message to
their son Anthony.
"It's our business. It shouldn't be dictated by
other people," Robin Knight says. So when someone cut
away the flag last week, leaving behind only tattered
corners, the Knights quickly ordered two more and said
more will be coming to replace any others that might be