EVERMAN — A gay couple who spoke out about discrimination has become the target of what police are labeling a hate crime, after threatening vandalism was found at their home.
On Tuesday night, someone spray-painted the words “burn” and a homophobic slur in large black letters on the couple’s fence.
“Last night I was angry," said 29-year-old Justin Hudgins. "Now that the anger is gone, I’m more scared, hoping that nobody else can find us."
Hudgins and his partner of eight years, Ben Allen, discovered the graffiti around 8 p.m. Tuesday on their home in Everman, south of Fort Worth.
Last week, News 8 featured Hudgins and Allen in a television story after a Tarrant County wedding hall refused to host the couple because of their sexual orientation.
Since homosexuality is not a federally-protected class, like race, the company was fully allowed to deny them service. However, the discrimination would have been illegal under local laws if the facility had been located a few miles away in Fort Worth.
Hudgins and Allen fully expected to experience backlash after the original news story — especially online — but they weren’t prepared for threats at their home.
“I never imagined something like this would ever happen,” Hudgins said. “It just felt like going back to school, being bullied in school.”
The fence faces a busy street and an elementary school. Allen and Hudgins hurried to cover the slur with blankets so passing schoolchildren couldn’t see it.
“I don’t want these kids, innocent kids, asking their teacher, 'Why is that on that fence over there? What does it mean?'” Hudgins said.
Everman police said they are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime, which carries more serious penalties if the suspects are caught.
Officers also decided to boost patrols around their home. So far, there are no suspects.
“They were targeted once, so chances are they could be targeted again,” said Officer David Merton. "We want to preempt that.”
The couple still doesn’t regret speaking out. All they’re hoping for, they say, is acceptance.
“I think if people don’t speak out, you end up with people hurt and lives being torn apart," said Allen, 26. "I feel like this person must be really hurting to try and hurt somebody else.”