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Saturday December 3rd

N.C. resident demands that Orange County remove pride flags from courthouse

North Carolina resident Napier Fuller is demanding that county and city governments in Orange County remove displays of rainbow flags and stickers from government buildings.            DTH/Nina Tan
Buy Photos North Carolina resident Napier Fuller is demanding that county and city governments in Orange County remove displays of rainbow flags and stickers from government buildings. DTH/Nina Tan

A North Carolina resident submitted a legal demand via email to Orange County in early June insisting that they remove any LGBT pride flags from government buildings.

According to the demand sent by Napier Fuller, who lives in Wilmington, rainbow flags and stickers are currently on display in public places such as the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough. He argued that these displays show a government preference toward one set of beliefs and cited U.S. Supreme Court cases such as County of Allegheny vs. American Civil Liberties Union (1989) to support his claim that a government cannot support one belief over another. In his demand, Fuller claimed this ruling includes secular movements such as what he refers to as the “acceptance” of “same-sex eroticism.” 

Fuller said he converted to Roman Catholicism in 2006, a church which often opposes same-sex marriage.

He said that he was asked by a judge to remove his crucifix from public display at the Orange County Court, but pride stickers were clearly visible inside the court hall. Others have filed to have the flags removed in the past, but their petitions have failed. 

“They were correctly unsuccessful because the people who filed them had no standing,” Fuller said. “They were just pissed off in general, and that’s certainly not my position here.”

Fuller also sent the legal demand to officials in the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. 

Fuller is also currently involved in another legal case. He was arrested in February 2017 on the grounds of sending harassing communications to UNC faculty and students. From late 2016 to early 2017, Fuller sent messages from an email account referring to a website "antiTRANNY.org." The emails contained images of male and female sex position diagrams, which Fuller used to argue that sex had to be between a biological man and woman. Fuller also called transgender people "demonic" and mentally ill. According to legal records, Fuller continued to send the emails even after he was issued a cease and desist order. 

The case State v. Fuller will be heard by a jury in the Orange County Superior Court on August 6, 2018. Fuller filed a motion to dismiss against the case where he claimed that his actions were protected under free speech. In this motion, he used the First Amendment in his defense since he was contacting UNC employees on their state emails about state law, particularly HB2. Additionally, the motion said that North Carolina’s harassing communications statute was “unconstitutionally vague.” The prosecution in this case argues that Fuller’s speech is not protected under the First Amendment. 

Fuller also sued Orange County Clerk of Court James Stanford and Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt in April 2018 for not providing what he referred to as “reasonable accommodations” in court under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said that he has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and that the court would not inform him when his trials began so that he had enough time to take his medication. This case has been moved to U.S. District Court in New Bern. Fuller said he thinks that in the Eastern District Court, the judges and general atmosphere will be more conservative and he can get a fairer trial than in Orange County. 

“We’re not suing them for fun. We’re suing them to allow the access to the court system in a fair and impartial way,” Fuller said. “They kept ignoring it, so I finally filed a federal lawsuit.”

Fuller said he has not received any responses to the legal demand he sent to the Board of County Commissioners, along with the Towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill. According to Orange County Attorney John Roberts, the Board does occasionally receive these demands via email. However, these demands do not count as official complaints. Roberts could not comment on whether or not Fuller’s demand had any legitimate legal standing.

In addition to the legal demand, Fuller is also in the process of requesting a permanent injunction to prevent the display of any symbols on Orange County government property that could be interpreted as preferring a particular set of beliefs over another. He also said that he believed the Town of Chapel Hill was not supportive toward Catholics because their government shows public support of same-sex marriages, but does not for Catholic marriages. 

According to Fuller, this injunction would also apply to UNC. If the injunction were to be implemented, symbols such as pride flags could still be displayed on private property and the workstations of government employees, but the University itself could not put them up.

UNC senior Nathaniel Elliott said that he has worn a rainbow flag in public places such as concerts, but has always been in a supportive environment and has never received any negative comments. Elliott also noted that Fuller’s attitude toward the LGBT community seemed contradictory to comments that Pope Francis has made in the past.

“There’s always going to be somebody that has beliefs you disagree with,” Elliott said. “As long as nobody’s being hurt in any kind of way, then I don’t think that a flag’s presence should matter.”


Staff writer Marin Wolf contributed reporting for this article. 

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