TULSA, Okla. — Freedom of speech is a protected right for Americans, but what happens when that speech is considered hurtful to a demographic of people?
Now, neighbors in a Tulsa community are asking that very question after one man posted signs in his yard targeting those who are homosexual.
Jon Bailey put the signs in his yard a few days ago, but he says he has held his beliefs for years.
"I was brought up in a Christian home with Christian morals and values," Bailey said. "I believe that homosexuality is wrong."
The signs Bailey put up has caused outrage in some of his neighbors.
"I have lived in this neighborhood for 17 years," Cindy Roberts said. "I have never seen anything this awful. It disgusts me. I’m upset!”
Bailey says he has been asked by neighbors to take his sings down, but he does not because he is passionate about what they say.
"I"m not putting them down, I'm just standing up to them and saying this is wrong," Bailey said. "I'm trying to show them there is a better way."
Despite Bailey basing actions in his strong faith, neighbors who spoke with 2 Works for You still do not like the messages on the signs.
“If you don’t agree with it, that’s fine, but don’t put up horrible defaming signs," Roberts said. "It's just showing hate in our neighborhood, and we have kids here. I just hate it.”
Life partners Christopher Jones and Terry Geasland live across the street from Bailey and see the signs every time they walk out the front door or sit on their deck.
“That's hate. We do not need this in Tulsa, Oklahoma," Jones said.
They are one of the three gay couples that live in the community. They moved in about two years ago to bring life and value back into a 100 year old home.
"We love living here and we love this house," Geasland said. "Even the tree outside is 100 years old. it's nice."
Now, when the couple goes to sit outside, they are greeted with Bailey's signs directly in front of them.
"It’s like wow in your face," said Jones. "It's very ugly. It's demeaning and it's a violation of humility towards my family."
Jones and Geasland say they don't feel threatened, but other neighbors are concerned for them.
"They call us and keep checking to make sure we are okay," Jones said. "We aren't scared. We just thought that it's 2020. We’re beyond this type of behavior."
Despite some neighbors insisting that the signs be taken down, they don't have to be.
“There’s really nothing the Tulsa Police Department can do to this individual because he has the right to have freedom of speech," Officer Jeanne Pierce with the Tulsa police said. "He has the right to post and hang whatever he wants on his property."
Which is why Bailey is steadfast in keeping the signs up.
"I know my rights," Bailey said. "The gay and lesbian community are bullying people into being quiet and to being silent, and they are making people like me that are standing up against them feel like criminals."
While he understands the right to freedom of speech, LGBTQ activist and Dennis R. Neill Equality Center Director Toby Jenkins says there needs to be a level of protection against some speech.
“You have to wonder sometimes, where do you draw the line," Jenkins said. “There should be some sort of statute or ordinance in place that you can not inflame or target a particular community. This kind of action needs to be denounced,"
Jenkins also says that language is still hurtful and could turn violent.
"Talk like this is just a step away from violence and people need to understand that members of the LGBTQ community are susceptible to being attacked, assaulted, and in some cases killed, it stems from comments like these that come from peoples hearts."
But Bailey says, that is not his intention.
"You can look at my character and my actions and know that I don't hurt people," Bailey said. "I am spreading awareness and it empowers other people to stand up against this."
While the community continues to hold on to their opinions, Tulsa police are working to keep this disagreement at a war of words.
"We just patrol to be seen to hopefully be a deterrent for any crimes that might be committed," Officer Pierce said. "That's what we can do right now."
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