Rainbow flag stolen, vandalized

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A gay couple in Bucks County was the target of vandalism earlier this month that they believe was motivated by their sexual orientation.

Mary Shafer and Shelly Sickbert, of Ferndale in Nockamixon Township, awoke March 7 to find the rainbow flag they fly in front of their house missing.

The following day, the 3-by-5-foot flag was thrown on the front lawn, torn, spraypainted and smelling of urine.

Shafer said when she noticed the flag was missing the previous day, she immediately called police, whom she said were hesitant to investigate the theft as a hate crime.

Once the flag resurfaced, she contacted a reporter she knows at The Intelligencer, hoping media attention would encourage police to take the incident seriously.

The paper published a story about the incident on March 10, and local television-news stations picked it up later that day.

“I went to a wake for a friend of mine and then stopped a few places in Doylestown, and when I got home there were two news trucks sitting in the driveway,” Shafer said. “It was like that the whole day. It was pretty surreal.”

She said she decided to contact state police again that day to inform them of the situation. Investigators came to the house to retrieve the flag, and ultimately forwarded the case to Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry.

Shafer said Henry’s office told her the DA plans to investigate the vandalism as a violation of the Ethnic Intimidation Act.

Messages left at Henry’s office were not returned by press time.

Shafer said she doesn’t think the perpetrator was someone who lived nearby.

“I don’t believe at all that this was one of our neighbors. It could have been one of the number of people who own property here but only come up on weekends to vacation or do some hunting, but our neighbors have been really supportive.”

Shafer noted that she and Sickbert, who will have lived in the house for 10 years in May, did experience harassment — such as people throwing hot dogs and eggs at their house and yelling homophobic slurs at them — when they first moved in, but that she thought it had ended.

“People realized we weren’t going away and got as bored with it as we did and stopped,” she said.

Shafer said the flag incident did not intimidate her, but rather just angered her — and she’s already ordered 10 more rainbow flags.

“Every time one gets pulled down, five more are going to go up.”

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].