Anti-LGBTQ notes in Boone spark fear and call for 'allies to continue to speak up' against hate

Isabella Rosario
Ames Tribune

Boone City Council member Elijah Stines was out of town for Father's Day weekend when he got a message from a constituent who said they found a note saying "burn that gay flag" taped to their front door.

"Since I have a pride flag on my house, I thought that perhaps somebody had done the same thing to mine. So I asked a friend to go over and look for me, and I had the same exact note on my front door," said Stines, who represents Ward 3 in the city.

Robert Clark Geddes, 25, of Boone was arrested Monday and charged with four counts of trespass with a hate crime enhancement and four counts of third-degree harassment. He was remanded to the custody of the Boone County Jail, according to a police news release. A criminal complaint says the four notes had "consistent handwriting, matching paper tear marks, and marker bleed through on each page."

"I felt fairly upset. Not fearing for my safety or anything like that, but upset that somebody would go through all that trouble to intimidate people that support our LGBTQ population in town," Stines said.

At the City Council meeting Monday, Stines read a resolution stating that Boone "stands in solidarity with its LGBTQ population and condemns any threats, harassment, intimidation, and violence against them." The resolution will be placed on the agenda for consideration at the next meeting July 5.

Stines said the resolution is "the least we can do" for LGBTQ people in Boone. He is open to more suggestions from constituents, he said, "but there's nothing ... on the horizon necessarily that we're going to change from a policy perspective."

"There are many, many more people that are completely accepting and welcoming of our LGBTQ community in Boone and that will come to aid them whenever necessary, than (there are people) in opposition to them," Stines said.

'Our homes are the place where we think we will get a break'

While American support for marriage equality and legal protections for LGBTQ people is at an all-time high, LGBTQ people continue to face violence and discrimination. Hate crimes motivated by gender identity rose by 20% from 2018 to 2019, according to law enforcement agencies that voluntarily report those numbers to the FBI. And more than one in three LGBTQ Americans experienced discrimination in 2020, according to the liberal Center for American Progress.

"Whatever the world has to say to us beyond our front doors, our homes are the place where we think we will get a break," said Rev. Eileen Gebbie, a queer pastor who leads Ames United Church of Christ.

For Gebbie, "having a threat come to your door is a reminder that there is no place that is yet safe to call home." Homes, like churches, are "sanctuaries," Gebbie said.

Previous coverage of the anti-LGBTQ notes left around Boone:

In 2019, an Ames man stole a pride banner hanging outside her church and burned it. Adolfo Martinez was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of arson with a hate crime enhancement, harassment and reckless use of fire. The church received hate mail blaming them for the length of Martinez's sentence, even though they had wanted to pursue a restorative justice approach instead of pressing charges.

Gebbie said she was "sad" and "frightened" when she heard about the hateful notes left around Boone.

"I know how it feels to have someone come onto your property and express not only disagreement, but likely disagreement about people's humanity," she said.

And she found it "peculiar" and "confusing" that local police said the notes were not threatening, "yet did go ahead with a hate crime charge."

"There is something about going onto a person's property and leaving messages that is inherently threatening," Gebbie said.

From 2019:Pastor of Ames church targeted with hate crime says Christians have a duty to fight bigotry

Pride flags wave in the sky.

In a news release Sunday, Boone police said the notes "spoke in opposition of this support (for LGBTQ people) only and were not threatening in nature." Chief John Wiebold said while the notes were "alarming" and "inappropriate," they did not constitute direct threats.

Courtney Reyes, executive director of One Iowa, said notes like the ones left around Boone are "scary and threatening and harmful."

"That note says to me — while I cannot speak for the entire LGBTQ community, I can speak to you as a member of the LGBTQ community — that definitely makes me feel unsafe," Reyes said.

One Iowa, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ Iowans, also receives bigoted messages at their offices, Reyes said.

"We get mail that just makes you feel unsettled and unsafe ... it's so incredibly important for our allies to continue to speak up and speak out when they see this sort of hate happening in our state," Reyes said.

That includes speaking out against harmful legislation, Reyes said, pointing to 15 bills proposed in this year's state legislative session. The bills One Iowa identified as anti-LGTBQ would have limited sports participation of transgender students, removed gender identity from the Iowa Civil Rights Act and added religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.

"I want to believe that ... people want LGBTQ people in our state, but we have a very strong message coming from our Legislature that that is not the case," Reyes said.

More:While the Iowa Legislature didn't pass a transgender athlete ban, students say they still feel the impact

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In a statement to the Ames Tribune, Iowa Safe Schools executive director Becky Ritland drew a strong parallel between the hate incidents in Boone and the 15 bills identified by One Iowa. Iowa Safe Schools is a nonprofit organization that provides support and resources to LGBTQ youth

"The cascade of intolerance from Iowa’s highest lawmaking body sends a message to extremists everywhere that this kind of intimidation is acceptable," Ritland said via email.

That intimidation can have "extremely negative" mental and physical health impacts on LGBTQ people, Ritland said.

"When we talk about issues that have a lasting impact on an individual who has either experienced a trauma directly or who has experienced vicarious trauma within their neighborhoods ... we know that (trauma) can compound over time," Ritland said.

People in marginalized communities know best what they need to feel safe and supported, Ritland said, adding that civil dialogues with local leaders are important.

"...Have the willingness to learn from the populations that are being directly impacted," Ritland said.

People in Boone have told Stines that it's time to "redouble our efforts to embrace the LGBTQ population and show that this is a city that values and respects them, and wants to make sure that they are welcome here," he said.

He suspects "quite a few more pride flags" will go up after Saturday's incident.

Gebbie said "we are in a pivotal moment as a culture and as a community on whether we want to remain fractured ... or survive the changes that are coming together."

And despite the hate her church has faced, she remains "hopeful that we are going to come together more than we're going to tear each other apart."

Isabella Rosario is a public safety reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at or on Twitter at @irosarioc.