Flag burning-- per se-- is not a crime in the United States. One can set Old Glory aflame with impunity, to hell with the hundreds of thousands who have given their lives for it and the millions who have in other ways sacrificed for what it represents. Like our First Amendment rights, which permit flag burning as part of the protection of free speech in general.
However, burning an LGBTQ flag is apparently beyond the pale, not only illegal, but a “hate crime,” as it also ignites the indignity of Rainbow Warriors everywhere. An Iowa man was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Wednesday, December 18th-- for burning a “rainbow flag.” Adolfo Martinez took a gay pride flag from outside a church and set it on fire. NBCNews reported that he was given “15 years for the hate crime of arson” and “a year for reckless use of explosives or fire.” And an additional “30 days for harassment” for good measure. Arson isn’t a hate crime. Unless your target is a member of the LGBTQ community or other group that tends to vote Democratic.
Ames Church of Christ Minister Eileen Gebbie told KCCI television: "Nobody got shot (and) nobody was sexually assaulted. It was a banner. How much does that hurt? But I had to reflect on the fear it created in our sanctuary. People became afraid to go to church.” Was Minister Gebbie allowed to influence the length of Martinez’ sentence? It sounds like it, but I didn’t find a report that makes that clear one way or another. The prosecutor, Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds, said of Martinez, "I believe him to be very dangerous. That's why my office recommended the maximum sentence." The judge agreed to the sentence, making Martinez the first person in Story County history to be convicted of a hate crime.
The U.S. flag’s colors are red, white and blue. Blue for justice. White for purity. Red for the blood her citizen patriots have shed to defend her principles. If one can burn the nation’s red, white and blue banner with no repercussions, the same should be the case for an identity group’s pastel one.
December 18th was certainly not a banner day for the American justice system.