A Memphis billboard featuring a gay marine saluting with the words "I'm gay and I protected your freedom" has been destroyed.
The billboard, which is one of several that is designed to promote National Coming Out Day, was put up last week by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. On the night of Sept. 25, one of those billboards was torn down in an act of vandalism.
"This particular billboard portrayed a good friend who was discharged from the Marines under the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy," said Jonathan Cole, chair of the Shelby County Tennessee Equality Project. "This act of vandalism hurts in so many ways.
"This crime dishonors all soldiers who commit their lives to the safety and security of our nation. This crime is an affront to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens of Memphis who merely wish to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities that others do. This crime seeks to silence free speech. This crime is a hate crime perpetrated on property due to bias against those who are gay or lesbian."
Chris Sanders, chair of the Tennessee Equality Project, said the act showed the need for education on GLBT issues throughout Tennessee.
"While some members of our statewide community were celebrating the signing into law of the Nashville non-discrimination ordinance last night, a horrible act of hatred was occurring in Memphis," Sanders said. "This disgusting act has demonstrated the need for these billboards and we hope that the statewide GLBT and allied community will stand with Memphians as they fight back against this violence."