STRASBURG — The Strasburg Town Council vowed on Tuesday to work on a resolution denouncing hate after a home displaying the LGBTQIA flag was vandalized. 

Paul Rush, who identified himself as a lifelong transgender citizen of the town, presented the idea of a resolution while reporting his house was vandalized on Sept. 26.

"My house was vandalized because for the first time in 27 years I felt safe publicly identifying as queer," Rush said. "My house was vandalized three days later with anti-trans, anti-gay and quite frankly anti-black messages."

Photos Rush posted to the "What's Happening Strasburg?" Facebook group show spray painted messages on his house reading "ABOMINATION WARNING" and that "BLM" means "BLACK LIVES MURDER." 

Rush said Tuesday he was "genuinely" surprised by the community's good response to the vandalism. With his pictures on Facebook, he said many people have helped.

"That being said, I want to make sure this never happens to anyone again," he said.

The proposed resolution calls for the town to commit to ending the spread of hate, bigotry and harassment and for elected leaders to pledge to set positive examples for their constituents, Rush explained.

In explaining the resolution, Rush reported that the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program for 2020 showed that hate crimes motivated by gender-identity bias increased by nearly 20% for the second year in a row. As of Sept. 1, this year has already seen at least 37 transgender or gender nonconforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means, Rush said.

Mayor Brandy Boies said the council would put the proposal into its own words and potentially adopt it during a November meeting. After learning of the incident on social media, she said it "shook me to my core."

Boies added that she loved seeing the support Rush received, saying that "once again, the positive outweighs the negative."

Laura Cascada, of the social justice coalition Northern Shenandoah Valley Unites, said during the meeting that the resolution would denounce bias-motivated violent actions in the community.

"If you chose to adopt a resolution like this, you'll really be setting a model and example for other communities, like mine in Front Royal," Cascada said, adding that Stephens City passed a "pro-diversity" resolution this week.

After councilman John Massoud asked for clarification on the right terms to use, Rush explained that the letter I in the LGBTQIA acronym stands for intersex, who are people born with both male and female genitalia characteristics, and the letter A is for asexual.

Strasburg Police Chief Wayne Sager said officers canvassed the area, going door-to-door "with boots on the ground," but the situation is an ongoing investigation with minimal leads. Sager noted the popularity of home-surveillance cameras and said his officers have asked residents in the area with them for help in identifying leads, but haven't received any.

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