A billboard depicting a U.S. Marine that read "I'm gay and I protected your freedom" was ripped to shreds Friday night. The ad, located at Poplar Avenue and High Street downtown, was one of five billboards paid for by the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) in conjunction with National Coming Out Day.
The billboard, situated close to the ground, was likely an easy target for vandals. The MGLCC has asked the Memphis Police Department to open an investigation into the vandalism.
"We choose not to be stopped by fear. Instead, our community unites in solidarity and with the belief that we too deserve equality," said MGLCC director Will Batts in a statement released on Saturday. "Although we are saddened by yesterday’s hateful expression of intolerance, we are proud of the local Memphian that chose to be the face on the billboard."
That Memphian — Tim Smith — was ejected from the Marines under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy 20 days before he was set to deploy to Iraq.
The community center is planning a rally for this coming weekend to protest the billboard's destruction. Check Memphis Gaydar later in the week for details.
Four other Coming Out Day billboards, located across the city, remain intact. For more on the MGLCC's billboard campaign, read the Memphis Flyer story.