Love thy neighbor … unless they put up a 6 foot fence you really can't see.
Love thy neighbor … unless they want to install a pool.
Love thy neighbor … unless they are gay.
Moving to a nice neighborhood, having your pets roam free in the grass, raising your kids in a dream home. Sounds like the American dream for many of us, but it's been all down hill for one gay couple since 2014. We learn of the occurrences and the recent court ruling from NBC10 Philadelphia.
When Keith Davis pulled his truck out of the garage of his stately Chester County, Pennsylvania, home one June morning in 2015, ready to take his two young boys to summer camp, an ugly message loomed in his rearview mirror, and everything changed.
"Get out F–S!" was scrawled in red paint across his prim beige garage doors and it was clear: The legal battle with neighbors in which Davis and his partner, David Ruth, had been embroiled for a few months — which they believed was over a 6-foot high fence around their yard that their neighbors didn’t like — had little to do with the fence.
"We couldn’t believe it," Davis, 36, recalled, adding that the responding officer from New Garden Police Department was also floored by the message of hate.
"I put the garage doors up" so the kids wouldn’t see it, Davis said. "Thank God I saw it and was able to."
Davis and Ruth’s home, tucked so deep in the rolling hills of bucolic Avondale that it’s not even visible from the road, should have been a safe haven for the couple and their boys, who are Ruth’s nephews but were placed in the couple’s custody after social services removed them from their parents' care.
The couple said they bought the house in 2014 and moved there for a fresh start — a place where their boys, now ages 8 and 13, could play in the yard with the four family dogs and leave behind the hurt of their biological parents’ struggles with drugs and crime.
But, the pair said, they found only discrimination and hate. First, they said, in the form of the frivolous lawsuit, and later during a months-long campaign of repeated vandalism to their home that included someone using the cover of night to scrawl the slur onto their garage, breaking their security sensors on numerous occasions and twice taking a hacksaw to the white fence that supposedly sparked it all.
"We didn’t want to jump to that conclusion, but it definitely felt over the top," said Ruth, 30, as he and Davis sat on the sofa in the couple’s living room on a gray Saturday morning. "How can you be this upset about a fence you can barely see? Something felt off."
After hearing a day of testimony, Judge Jeffrey R. Sommer ruled in favor of Davis and Ruth, saying they can keep their fence and also install a pool they’d previously been denied by a committee of residents in their sprawling 26-house development. Sommer wrote that the committee appeared to selectively enforce the rules when convenient for its members, denying Ruth and Davis things that other houses in the neighborhood had, including their fence.
Sommer took his decision a step further, including in it some scathing remarks about Davis and Ruth’s neighbors hiding behind the fence as an excuse to discriminate against the same-sex couple.
"This case is not at all about a fence," Sommer wrote.
To read more about the judge's ruling, head over to NBC10 Philadelphia's page. There, you will hear more about Davis and Ruth's neighbors, one admitting to yelling homophobic slurs toward the couple and another saying "Nobody’s homophobic. I have a home in Rehoboth," Charlton said. "No one is homophobic here. It’s simply and truly about a fence." It may be true for that one person, but then again, owning property in a certain zip code doesn't make you anything except a land owner.
The couple started a GoFundMe page in hopes of getting back some of the roughly $77,000 they lost fighting the lawsuit. The site was down for a time while the legal proceedings were occurring.