And, lastly, the home was deliberately set on fire and burned to the ground. The couple–who wish to remain anonymous–are now living in a motel.
Oh, yeah, the couple is a gay couple. The note called them sinners and told them to move. It was an anti-gay slur that was written on their home.
But this is not a hate crime because North Carolina Hate Crimes statutes don’t include sexual orientation. If the couple had been black, or Latino, or Baptist, it would have qualified, but a year of systematic torture against a gay couple is not considered hate.
Something is very wrong here.
The neighbor who reported the fire is also seeking anonymity because she fears a backlash simply for reporting a fire.
To be fair, there have been a recent string of suspicious fires in the area, but Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said this fire, being investigated as arson, does not appear to be related to those other blazes. And, while Bizzell says the sheriff’s office is aware of at least two of the incidents of harassment against the gay couple, he cannot call this a hate crime.
North Carolina needs to get its act together. Systematically harassing a couple simply because they’re gay is hate; and burning down their house is the pinnacle of hate.
In North Carolina, hate crime statutes do not include sexual orientation–the North Carolina General Statute § 14-401.14, which covers damaging another person’s property, covers only “race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin”–so unless the feds get involved this is “just arson.”