Casey Handal and Zadette Rosado moved to Barrington, a suburb outside Chicago, Illinois, only six months ago. They’re the proud parents of two young children––and the only gay couple in the area.
The rainbow pride flag the women flew from their backyard flagpole was stolen recently, replaced with the American flag.
Casey Handal was hosting a gingerbread decorating party at her Barrington home when she glanced out her window and to see the rainbow pride flag she and her fiancee flew from their backyard flagpole was gone, replaced by the Stars and Stripes. https://t.co/jliywHCV7L pic.twitter.com/CDp5FPwr67
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) December 21, 2018
“I think the message was quite clear,” Handal told the Chicago Tribune. “It was sort of the intolerant view vs. the inclusive liberal view. I think if somebody would have just taken the flag and not replaced it with anything, that wouldn’t necessarily have sent quite the same message. It’s more premeditated this way.”
The rainbow flag, she added, wasn’t meant to be a political statement.
“It was just there to represent our family,” she said. “The girls loved it, and not just because it’s pretty. Every time they’d have a friend come over they’d be like, ‘Hey, look at our flag. Isn’t it cool?’”
After sharing the story with neighbors via the Nextdoor app, the neighborhood got to work.
The incident prompted Kimberly Filian, a high school social worker, planted a rainbow flag on her lawn in act of solidarity. She also ordered four dozen rainbow flags for neighbors to display.
“I’m so sick of all this hate,” Filian said. “I just feel inundated in the media and everywhere I look, all those terrible stories. It’s overwhelming sometimes. I felt like it was one thing I could do to show support — just something little.”
The flags are now all over the neighborhood, gracing homes, yards, and even mailboxes. The neighbors have also volunteered to serve as secret Santas, dropping small gifts like candy and coffee mugs at the family’s home until New Year’s Eve, when Handal and Rosado plan to get married.
You can see them for yourself right here:
Handal says the neighborhood’s heartfelt response has served as an example of compassion to share with her children.
“We said look at what all the good people are doing, look at all the nice people in the world,” Handal told WGN9. “For every bad person, there’s 100 nice people, And it is a really good lesson for them, and for all the children in the neighborhood, to see that there’s good in this world and it always outweighs the bad.”
Neighbor Robert Colvin had personal reasons for offering his support to the family: His adult son came out as gay a few years ago.
“Just because somebody’s gay doesn’t mean they’re wrong, doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means they’re a little different and that’s just fine,” he said. “That’s America. That’s what it should be, anyway.”
Many people on social media were praising the neighborhood for reacting the way they did:
In June, a Boston metropolitan area community offered support to LGBTQ resident Donna Titus, who co-owns Big D’s Neponset Cafe in Canton, after a rainbow flag hanging outside her business was stolen. Titus said she was nearly moved to tears by the community’s response after she posted about the incident on Facebook.
“There were like 300 comments that I saw this morning when I first put it on, I couldn’t believe how fast everybody reacted to it and everything. It was nice,” she said at the time, noting that while Canton is a progressive community, “you still have that one or two people, but I just think it’s because they don’t understand and are afraid, you know.”