This summer, Celia Fabrizio and Patricia Chiapuzzi, both 57, hung a rainbow flag — a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride — outside their home on Miller Avenue, next to their American flag, to celebrate the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision allowing same-sex couples to marry across the United States. They were wed that Sept. 10.
On Aug. 29, Fabrizio left for work at Freeport’s Two Cousins Fish Market. Soon afterward, a friend texted her that he thought someone had stolen her flag.
After watching security footage of her home, she realized that was the case. “I was hurt,” she said.
The grainy black-and-white video showed a man, likely in his mid- to late 30s, walk up to the front porch, snatch the rainbow flag from its holder and throw it like javelin into the bushes. Then he walked away.
“At first I [wondered] if they did it because it was a rainbow flag,” Fabrizio said, “or were they drunk? I thought it was teenagers. It wasn’t as if it was some kid. It was a grown man. I was angry.”
Once the shock wore off, she pulled the flag from the bushes and waited for Chiapuzzi to come home to break the news.
According to Fabrizio, on the afternoon of the incident, one of her neighbors dropped by to tell her that a suspicious man had been skulking around the neighborhood, checking for unlocked cars the night before. Fabrizio said she was un-certain whether he was the same one who pulled down the flag.
She said she could not understand the vandal’s motive. “Taking our flag doesn’t make us less gay,” she said.
After handing over the surveillance video to Freeport police, Fabrizio and Chiapuzzi decided they would turn to Facebook to express their anger to friends and fellow residents in the Freeporters group. Their post has been shared more than 200 times, and has received hundreds of comments and expressions of support from outraged Freeporters.
“What a jerk,” Patricia Landers-Silson responded. “I hope he gets caught. Sorry this happened to you.”
“I’m sorry someone is so full of hate that [they think] they can do that to you at your home,” Erica Morales commented.
“Everyone needs to get [a flag] and fly it as high as you can for support,” Eric Robinson suggested.
Family members, friends and neighbors called to lend their support. That same afternoon, Fabrizio and Chiapuzzi’s friends were at her doorstep with a drill and screws, ready to help restore the flag.
“I’m surprised at the amount of support that we’ve gotten from Freeport,” Chiapuzzi said. “We haven’t gotten any negative response.”
On Sept. 8, Fabrizio shared her post one more time in the hope that more people would share it and potentially identify the vandal. Chiapuzzi said she believed the man is a local resident.
Doreen Flood, 54, who lives 10 houses down, at Miller Avenue and Cedar Street, said she was outraged when she found out what happened to Fabrizio and Chiapuzzi.
“I was shocked,” Flood said. “I couldn’t believe, with the diversity of this village, that somebody would stoop down to this level.”
Eager to share her support for the couple, Flood ordered a rainbow flag on Amazon, and the day it arrived, she raised it next to the American and police flags in her front yard.
“I’m proud to fly this flag,” Flood said. “I’m hoping that people are more accepting and that people can change.”
With a smile, Fabrizio, Flood and a couple of neighbors said they would transform Miller Street by raising “beautiful rainbow flags.”
Whether taking down a rainbow flag constitutes a hate crime is up for debate. Freeport Police Chief Miguel Bermudez said the incident is under investigation.
“This is something that is important to us,” Fabrizio said. “As mad as I am that it happened, this has shown me the amount of support we have in our community.”
Zach Gottehrer-Cohen contributed to this story.