An Illinois family got a heartwarming surprise this holiday after having their rainbow flag stolen in what they believe was a homophobic statement.
Casey Handal was hosting a holiday party at her home in Barrington, Illinois ― about 30 miles north of Chicago ― earlier this month when she noticed that the rainbow flag she flew from a flagpole in her backyard was gone. In its place, she said, was an American flag.
Handal, who moved into the Barrington home with fiancée Zadette Rosado and their two daughters in May, told The Chicago Tribune she believes the as-yet-unidentified culprit intended to send a “clear” message to the family.
“It was sort of the intolerant view vs. the inclusive liberal view,” she said in an interview published Dec. 20. “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.”
Immediately afterward, Handal and Rosado shared news of the theft on social media. Though no one came forward with information about the thief, the couple said their neighborhood responded with a colorful act of solidarity.
Dozens of Handal and Rosado’s neighbors began displaying their own rainbow flags on the front lawns of their own homes, even incorporating them into Christmas displays.
Among those speaking out in support of the couple was Kimberly Filian, who said she’d ordered four dozen small rainbow flags for herself and her neighbors.
“Frankly, I’ve grown weary of this, of all this hate,” she told local news network WGN-TV. “And I got to say, it just seemed like there was one thing that I could do that I had control of.”
The story even caught the eye of comedian Cameron Esposito. The Illinois native’s tweet commemorating the Barrington neighborhood had received more than 22,000 likes as of Wednesday.
Handal told WGN-TV she and Rosado have come to view the incident as a “really good lesson” for their children.
“We said, ‘Look at what all the good people are doing, look at all the nice people in the world.’ For every bad person, there’s 100 nice people,” she said.