Gay couple ‘fear for their lives’ after fire destroys their building

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A gay couple’s building has been burned down, leaving them scared for their lives.

Police in Pageland, South Carolina have called the fire which destroyed Neil and Tim Griffin’s 3,000-square foot structure “suspicious” after the pair reported receiving threats beforehand.

The building was still being constructed, and did not yet have power.

(Facebook/Timothy Griffin)
(Facebook/Timothy Griffin)

The married couple woke up smelling smoke around 2am on Friday – but it was already too late.

“By the time the fire department got here, the building was 80 percent, 90 percent gone,” Tim told local station WSOC TV Channel 9. “It went down just like that.”

The Griffins were planning to use the building, which sat just a few feet away from their home, for their annual Miss Pageland pageant.

The pageant is run by the Griffin Scholarship Foundation, which is part of the official Miss United States organisation and does charitable work in the community.

After seeing thousands of dollars of pageant supplies like dresses burnt up during Thursday night’s fire, they have accused people of trying to run them out of town.

(Facebook/Timothy Griffin)
(Facebook/Timothy Griffin)

Writing on Facebook, Tim said: “I am so tired and beat, but have not been able to close my eyes and sleep.”

He blamed this on “the sheer fear that there are people out there still posting HATE and still fanning the flames of the evil hate that is destroying this town, that I fear our home being set on fire with us and the fur babies inside.

“This fear is real and justified.”

Last night, he said that he and Neil would be missing a local high school’s Homecoming event for the first time since the couple moved to Pageland, because of this fear.

“I will not be attending tonight due to the recent discovery of threats of bodily harm,” he wrote.

(Channel 9)
(Channel 9)

“We have been instructed by [law enforcement] to be cautious, vigilant, and aware of our surroundings.

“I have lived through some of the most hateful anti-gay times here in America, but I have never feared for my home, my pets and my life, but now…I am scared to be in my own home and in the community that I LOVE!!!”

In a powerful Facebook post, Neil claimed locals had been working to get them to leave for years, through increasingly horrific actions.

“Since moving to Pageland, we’ve tried to get people to understand the hate directed at us by a small but vicious group.

(Facebook/Timothy Griffin)
(Facebook/Timothy Griffin)

“No one has taken it seriously, not when my Mom’s house was vandalised and burned down. Not when we were forced out of First Baptist Church.

“Not when someone shot at us at 311 McGregor. Not after being called fags and attacked on Main Street. Not after Tim’s Mercedes was totally destroyed.

“Not after shrubs and trees were ripped out of our yard and thrown in the street. Not after a hate notice was spread all over Pageland begging people not to let Pageland become a ‘fag town’ with our picture on it.

“Not after being threatened repeatedly by ‘upstanding’ citizens. Not after people have stated to anyone who would listen they were going to run us out of town.

(Tommy Rivers)
(Tommy Rivers)

“Not after a lunatic sent multiple hate letters to the sheriff, school board, superintendent, newspapers, town council, chamber of commerce, Sec. of State, Attorney General, and God knows who else.

“Not after threatening FB posts and private messages. Not after all these things and more has anyone stepped up and taken us seriously. Well, fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

But while Neil spoke in a determined fashion, Tim sounded utterly resigned.

“We’re defeated,” he told Channel 9. “We’ll go. We’re done.”

Watch the Griffins being interviewed below: