MILWAUKEE — When a neighborhood association told Wisconsin homeowners that their Pride flag had to be taken down, they found a clever loophole — one that took the Pride message to new heights and simultaneously made their house Internet famous.
Memo Fachino and his husband, Lance Mier, replaced the flag with a rainbow display of flood lights, and Fachino embraced the humor of the moment by posting it to a Reddit forum celebrating outside-the-box ways ways of getting around rules.
The post took off and inevitably devolved into rants about overzealous homeowner’s associations, but Fachino had no intention to become adversarial. After all, he sits on his Racine neighborhood board.
“We’re not trying to stick it to anyone,” Fachino said. “We don’t feel targeted or attacked in our community. It was just a fun way for us to show our individuality and support in a way that didn’t break any HOA rules.”
The rules ask that only one flag be flown at any house: the official U.S. flag. Not even a flag representing a sports team is permissible.
At some point, a neighbor spotted their rainbow flag and raised the issue with the association, prompting an emailed notice that it had to go — and prompting Fachino and Mier to come up with the bright solution.
Fachino and Mier purchased a couple different hues of light bulb online but otherwise already had the equipment to make it happen. Fachino then posted the image of his house to a Reddit subreddit “Malicious Compliance,” which has 1.5 million members who celebrate “people conforming to the letter, but not the spirit, of a request.”
The lights were perfectly within bounds; Fachino would know, after all.
What does Pride Month mean?:We answer your questions about the LGBTQ celebration
Pride is back in 2021:Here’s how to celebrate with parades, in-person and online events
Within 48 hours, the post had more than 80,000 upvotes, 6,000 comments and attention from as far away as the United Kingdom in The Independent.
“I’ve posted other things in other subreddits; it’s not like I’m a content creator and trying to see which of my things is going to blow up,” Fachino said. “It was just a random thing.”
The no-flag rule had resulted from a couple tense years in the neighborhood and some “ruffled feathers” regarding political disagreements. Board members struggled with the proper way to phrase language allowing for sports-team flags or other flags without a political message.
Fachino said he wanted to be “a bigger part of the conversation” when he joined the neighborhood board, and though he doesn’t outright agree with the flag policy, he said he focused his attention on issues with greater impact when the latest batch of statutes were approved.
“There are some other flags still flying around the neighborhood that have not come down mainly because nobody reported them,” he said. “For whatever reason, one neighbor just happened to report mine. I don’t know the reason for it and didn’t go around reporting everyone else. We also didn’t try to make a huge statement (against the association).”
Fachino said his lights are usually only on for three hours a night, from 7 to 10 p.m. He lives at the end of a cul de sac, so it hasn’t led to problems.
“It’s not like we have traffic coming through and people stopping to take pictures,” he said.
Pride Month in photos:Photos celebrate the LGBTQ community
“The neighbors I’ve heard back from have been supportive,” Fachino added. “I didn’t share it on the neighborhood app or try to make a big point that everyone should know about it. I just thought it was a funny loophole, and it just kind of took off from there.”
And hey, maybe there’s an added benefit.
“It’ll be fun for light bulb companies to come up with a Pride edition of lightbulbs that you can send in a box in June,” he said. “Maybe the profit could benefit a foundation or something. It was just a fun thing for us to do.”
Follow JR Radcliffe on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.