Officials in Dent County, Missouri announced on Monday (July 13) that they planned to lower their flags to half-staff on the 26th of every month to "mourn" the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision. That inspired one former community member to fight hate with love by establishing a scholarship for LGBT students and their allies.
Before that, the decision got a whole lot of national attention, leading some Dent County residents to protest the proposed move. By the next day, they had gotten over 1,000 signatures on an online petition opposing the lowering of the flags and county officials announced hours later that they had ditched the plan.
The whole thing got Dent County resident Jacob Wilson, 29, thinking, so he established a new scholarship for an LGBT student or ally at his former high school. The crowdfunding effort was so successful, he expanded the effort into the "Courage To Be LGBT" scholarship fund, which aims to make scholarships available to "LGBT students and straight allies who are working to improve the lives of LGBT people," and "students who work to advance the lives of people of color, religious minorities, women, immigrants, and people with disabilities" throughout the state of Missouri.
Wilson wrote on the scholarships' crowdfunding page, "LGBT teens in rural America have many hurdles to overcome in order to live happy, healthy lives...[the] discriminatory, hateful message [sent by Dent County officials] is harmful and hurtful to LGBT people and our straight allies, but it especially has the potential to negatively impact LGBT youth in the community. And that's why need to show LGBT youth in Salem that we have their back, even if many back home do not."
In the County Commission's statement about why they proposed to lower the flag, they wrote, “We feel sadness, shame, and outright revulsion of the U.S. high court’s stamp of approval of what God speaks of as an abomination."
"This is about more than a flag or even scholarships," Wilson wrote in response. "It’s about sending a message of love and acceptance to drown out hate. And most importantly, it’s about making life better for LGBT youth today, not just telling them that, someday, things will get better."
"It takes courage to go against the grain, to stand up for what you believe when it differs from your community, and to live authentically in the face of adversity and hostility," he added. "These seemingly small acts are not easy but have the power to change the world one heart and one mind at a time."
At press time, the scholarship's crowdfunding page had raised $4,637 of their $12,000 goal -- "$1,000 for each month the Commission voted to 'mourn' equality."