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Monday, January 24, 2011

NZ Community rallies round hate crime couple

Lindsay Curnow and Juliet Leigh
A lesbian couple has faced two hate crimes within a week, with anti-gay slurs tagged on their home and vehicles, and a fire destroying their business.
Couple Lindsay Curnow and Juliet Leigh have lived peacefully in the small coastal village of Mangawhai Heads, Northland, for seven years. They said their sexuality has never been an issue before in the community.
But now they live in fear, not wanting to leave their home and return to something worse.
Two weeks ago the couple had their home and vehicles tagged with offensive anti-gay slurs.
Then a week later their shed, which is at the heart of their mail-order bulb business, was completely destroyed by fire.
"They've really invaded our privacy. It was a bit like being burgled, you know that sort of violation that you have," Leigh said.
Police said the fire was deliberately lit, and local policeman Graeme Goff said he is sure the series of events is part of a hate crime.
"I just felt down. I felt that kind of prejudice had just gone in New Zealand, to the greater extent anyway, and thought 'why me?'," Leigh said.
"It's a terrible act of prejudice and it's really, really sad because variety is the spice of life."
But since they told their story in a Sunday newspaper they have been heartened by the support also evident in the community.
Leigh and Curnow said that's made them decide to stay in Mangawhai.
"People are just horrified, we walk down the street and people just come over and shake hands and say how sorry they are. People we don't think we even know are hugging us," Leigh said.
She said with the help of their community they will bounce back and not let the events of the past couple of weeks beat them.
Curnow told Close Up their Blooming Bulbs base - a shed - is now a "burnt out carcass of hopes and dreams".
Leigh said they lost paperwork, personal gear and all their business supplies, which means they won't be selling any bulbs this season.
"It's a big loss. It was sort of a grief for those three days afterwards that you have when someone dies," she said.
Regardless of the situation the women realise it could have been worse.
"It could have been three households and loss of life. There were explosions going through we're not quite sure what they were but there were things exploding."
The police are investigating who caused the damage.

for video see Hate crime shocks country (9:06)

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