Judge compares LGBTQ+ people to pirates during hate crime case

Author: Greg Owen

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday upheld the conviction of a man who trespassed at five homes in the small town of Boone (about 30 miles north of Des Moines) and left notes referring to Pride flags on display that read, “burn that gay flag.” One contained additional anti-gay slurs.

“The individuals’ display of the LGBTQ+ flag or flag decal on their own properties was an exercise of First Amendment rights; the defendant’s surreptitious entry onto those properties to post his harassing notes was not,” the court said.

The handwritten notes were taped to the front doors of five Boone renters and homeowners in June, 2021; all the homes displayed rainbow flags or decals.

According to the court’s decision, the recipients told police they considered the notes “alarming, annoying and/or threatening.”

Based on surveillance video, Geddes was identified as the perpetrator and was charged with five counts of trespassing as a hate crime. He was later convicted.

Geddes acknowledged posting the notes and was sentenced to up to two years of probation.

In a dissent, one Supreme Court justice claimed that the hate crime conviction was inappropriate since the facts of the case didn’t make clear if the residents displaying the flags and decals were actually associated with the LGBTQ+ community.

Iowa’s hate crime law requires that the victim is shown to be targeted because of their “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability,” or because of their “association with” people in those categories.

Justice Matthew McDermott wrote that there was no evidence in the record that indicated the targets of Geddes’ notes were members of the LGBTQ+ community, whether Geddes believed they were, nor if any of the residents had an “association with” an actual person in those protected classes.

“As a symbol, a flag doesn’t independently create or express actual association with particular persons,” McDermott wrote, adding that, “Not everyone who displays a pirate flag is associated with actual pirates.”

Geddes and his attorney said they were disappointed in the decision.

“We should all be concerned with protecting the free marketplace of ideas under the First Amendment even if the ideas are minority opinions,” Geddes’ lawyer Ashley Stewart shared in an email with Iowa Public Radio.

“Iowa’s hate crime statute requires the victim be associated with a targeted group. We agree with the dissent that the mere display of a flag on a home does not meet the criteria.”

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Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: Greg Owen

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