MEADE A 12-year-old son's gift of a colorful flag he found while staying with his grandparents in California has put his parents in the middle of controversy in this small town.
J.R. and Robin Knight said they knew the rainbow flag was a symbol of gay rights when they decided last month to fly it on a pole in front of their business, the Lakeway Hotel. But that isn't why they flew the banner.
"We just put it up. We didn't think about it," Robin said. "It has pretty colors, it's bright, it's summery."
And, J.R. Knight said, it was a symbolic way to have their son nearby.
The decision prompted a controversy in the town of 1,600 and eventually someone cut the flag down. It's also prompted an Internet-fueled debate on gay rights in rural America, and the Knights say they have received messages of support from around the world.
Now, the Knights say, they are determined to replace the flag and keep it flying.
Waitress Vicky Best said such a flag has no place in Meade.
"It's hard enough to keep your kids on the straight and narrow without outside influences like that," she complains. "We stay in a small town to stay away from the crap like that that's happening in big cities," she said, calling homosexuality "biblically wrong."
But retiree Charles Helms said he doesn't care if the Knights fly the flag.
"If he wants to fly that thing, let him fly it," Helms said. "I don't have a problem at all because I know the story behind it."
The Knights say they have no problems with homosexuals, but they have never taken a role in the gay rights movement. They moved to Meade two years ago from southern California to pursue their dream of operating a bed-and-breakfast.
The Knights say the anger displayed by some residents has strengthened their resolve to keep the rainbow flag flying.
Flying the flag not only protests discrimination, they say, but they also believe giving into the pressure would send the wrong message to their son, Anthony.
"It's our business. It shouldn't be dictated by other people," Robin Knight said.
So, when someone cut away the flag last week, leaving behind only tattered corners, the Knights quickly ordered two more, and said more will be coming to replace any others that might be destroyed.