Iowa Man Who Tore Down, Burned Church's LGBTQ Flag Gets 15 Years In Prison

An Iowa man who tore down and burned a church's LGBTQ pride flag because, as he admitted to police, he "opposed homosexuality," has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Adolfo Martinez, 30, was convicted last month of a variety of offenses for the June 11 incident.

As The Des Moines Register reported at the time, the United Church of Christ in Ames, a college town about 35 miles from Des Moines, had hoisted a rainbow-colored LGBTQ pride banner above its doors. However, Martinez stole it, and then took it with him to a strip club a few blocks away. There, in the early morning hours of June 11, he poured lighter fluid on it and set it on fire outside the club -- all done as he stood in the street, yelling.

Someone called the police, and when they arrived he was still yelling. At the time, he was charged with harassment and misuse of fire.

He admitted to the police that he stole the flag and lit it on fire with his declaration against homosexuality. That admission got the charges against him upgraded to hate crime charges. At the time, Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said the destruction of the flag stemmed from "what it represents as far as sexual orientation."

The church's pastor, Eileen Gebbie, agreed with the assessment that a hate crime had been committed against her congregation.

"He is very much opposed to our support of queer people," she said at the time, adding that she believed Martinez's crime was indicative of a larger problem of "homo-, trans-, and queerphobia in our 'Iowa nice' community."

Martinez, for his part, told a reporter from KCRG-TV he had no regrets.

"It was an honor to do that. It's a blessing from the Lord. It is a judgment and it is written to execute vengeance on the heathen and punishment upon the people," he said.

On Wednesday, Martinez was sentenced to 15 years for the hate crime of arson, 12 months for reckless use of explosives or fire, and 30 days for harassment. The sentences are to be served consecutively. Meanwhile, he's being held at the Story County Jail while he awaits trial on other, unrelated charges.

This is not the first time that a rainbow flag at a church has been burned. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, a Chicago Catholic priest took exception to a rainbow flag that had been hanging in Resurrection Church for years. He told the congregation that he planned on burning it, which he did. The Archdiocese of Chicago later removed Father Paul Kalchik from the ministry.