A Florida business owner’s sign claims the celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month honors “f**s and child molesters,” prompting backlash from more liberal-leaning residents and Internet users.
The sign, outside Rick’s Repair Shop in Tallahassee, reads, “Veterans get a day[.] F**s and child molesters get a month[.] Why.”
The sign incorrectly alleges that veterans are not honored for their service. Each year, May is recognized in the United States as Military Appreciation Month, and each November is recognized as Veterans Month — and that is in addition to the single-day celebrations of Memorial Day, which honors military personnel who lost their lives in combat, and Veterans Day, honoring veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The sign also unfairly conflates LGBTQ Pride with supporting child molesters, which has historically been used to justify harassment and violence against LGBTQ people. That centuries-old trope has gained traction in recent years as populist conservatives have increasingly accused anyone supporting LGBTQ rights or displays of LGBTQ visibility as “groomers.”
Jackson Peel, the communication director for the Democratic Caucus of the Florida House of Representatives, tweeted a photo of the sign and publicly denounced its message.
“This kind of bigotry should have no place in our Tallahassee community. It is an embarrassment and the people at Rick’s Repair Shop should be ashamed of their foolish, hurtful, and wrong words.” Peel’s tweet has been viewed more than 935,000 times, according to NBC News.
A similar, but separate photo of the repair shop’s sign, has also been shared on social media, earning more than 1.5 million views (not including retweets or “quote tweets” made by left-wing critics or right-wing supporters of the message).
In an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, Peel said, “I understand that we are community with diverse beliefs and opinions, but this crosses the line. It’s offensive, wrong, and mean-spirited. Pedophilia and homosexuality are not connected.
“I think this is wrong and sends the wrong message about our community,” he added. “We are not this. Implying that LGBTQ people are a danger to our children is an old trick used to justify persecution. Why would the people at a business think this kind of language is OK?”
Tyler Clark-McLendon, the board chair of Tallahassee Pride, shared Peel’s tweet and said the shop “chose to have a hate-filled Memorial Day.”
Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow also criticized the business, which is owned by Rick Hughes, who has become known in Tallahassee for sometimes sharing controversial messages outside his store.
“I’m not sure the sad, miserable place a person must be in to take the time to put this up, but I do know that majority of folks in Tallahassee reject this hatred, and respect the freedom to be who you are, love who you want, and support LGBTQ rights every month of the year,” Matlow tweeted.
Since Peel’s post about the sign went viral, Rick’s Repair Shop has received hundreds of negative ratings and reviews on the business-review platform Yelp.
Yelp posted a message on Tuesday afternoon noting that it had temporarily disabled the posting of new reviews on the shop’s page due to “increased public attention, which often means people come to this page to post their views on the news rather than actual consumer experiences with the business.”
Efforts by local media to reach Hughes for comment have been unsuccessful.
However, the Democrat also reported that some local community members have taken action to combat the message. A Facebook user named Kevonte Ford posted a picture of smaller signs expressing support for the LGBTQ community being erected across the street from Rick’s Repair Shop.
Earlier this month, drivers in Orlando, Florida, were subjected to a message on a digital traffic sign, which appeared to have been tampered with, reading: “KILL ALL GAYS.”
Police are currently investigating the incident, but local officials, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, denounced the message as “disgusting” and not representative of the majority of the Orlando community’s feelings toward the LGBTQ community.
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