Using a puppy that moos instead of barks, the Born Different campaign was launched in Colorado Springs to encourage locals to ponder a simple question: Are people born gay?
The inquiry appears harmless enough. But this is how someone weighed in on the discussion the night of Friday, July 28: They shattered the window of a 16-year-old's car that displayed a poster of the mooing dog. The unsolved vandalism left D'Manda Souleret in tears, and her mother, Cyndi Souleret, fearful and angry with a police department that she maintains did little to respond to her concerns that a hate crime had been committed.
That Friday night, Cyndi says, her daughter came home at about 10:30 and parked her car in the driveway of their central Colorado Springs home. They didn't hear any disturbances, but two hours later, D'Manda went back out to her car. "She came right back in, crying, and said, "Someone broke my window,'" Cyndi says. "It really hurt her and scared her."
Says D'Manda: "We were really frightened. Whoever did this knew where we lived, and they destroyed our property."
Cyndi called the police. She was told to file a report over the telephone, that they were too busy that night to send out an officer. "I was kind of scared about what else could happen nothing else in the neighborhood had been vandalized," she says. "To me, that really felt like a hate crime, and they said, "No, no, that's just a misdemeanor.'"
The police dispatcher indicated, Cyndi says, that they would try to send a car around to patrol the neighborhood. She stayed up until 5 a.m. "I never once saw that patrol car."
Two days later, she sent letters of complaint to Mayor Lionel Rivera, District Attorney John Newsome and the Colorado Springs Police Department.
"I am a lesbian in a wonderful, committed 9-year relationship," Cyndi wrote. "We live in a supportive neighborhood with our daughter. The "political' sign in my daughter's car window is the Norman Dog who says Moo ... the one that is supposed to stimulate conversations about being gay. And what do we get? Vandalizing homophobes, terrorizing in the dead of night, plus an unresponsive community to our experience of hate and violence."
None of the recipients of the letter have responded, she says. Police spokesman Lt. Rafael Cintron has said that he is unaware of the Soulerets' report.
This week, Mary Lou Makepeace, a local spokeswoman for the Born Different campaign, said she heard third-hand of the vandalism.
"I'm really sorry to hear about this happening to this woman's car, and especially to this young woman that must have been very frightening to her," Makepeace said. She added that she has received reports that some of the campaign's yard signs have been stolen, but nothing else of this magnitude.
Funded by the pro-gay Gill Foundation, the campaign was launched several weeks ago in Colorado Springs, and mooing dog Norman has been featured on bus ads, yard signs and television commercials. The idea, says Makepeace, a former mayor of Colorado Springs, is to get people talking about what can be a tough issue homosexuality outside the sphere of politics and religion. The campaign is expected to continue through the end of this month.