Was 'Relentlessly Gay' Homeowner's Fundraiser Just A Hoax?

After doubts in claims about a homophobic note, Baltimore woman says she'll return more than $43,000 to donors.

A Baltimore woman who raised $43,000 in an online fundraiser after she claimed to have received a homophobic note from a neighbor complaining about her yard decorations will return the money.

In June, Julie Baker said she'd received the note after she and her daughters had decorated their yard with a string of rainbow-colored lights, which spelled out "love" and "ohana," a Hawaiian expression for family unity. A snapshot of the alleged note, which appeared on The Baltimore Sun, Raw Story and the Daily Mail -- among other publications -- read as follows: 

Your yard is becoming Relentlessly Gay! Myself and Others in the neighborhood ask that you Tone it Down. This is a Christian area and there are Children. Keep it up and I will be forced to call the police on You! Your kind need to have Respect for GOD.

In response to the note, which appeared to have been signed "a concerned home owner," Baker vowed to make her yard more colorful and pro-equality, and launched a GoFundMe campaign to support that effort. She said she never found out who'd written the letter, but told City Paper that she suspected it was someone involved with a Presbyterian church located in her neighborhood. 

"I have no proof that the church was involved in this, though I would not be surprised," she said at the time. 

Although 3,320 online donors greatly surpassed Baker's goal of $5,000 by raising $43,236, a widely-cited Snopes post raised questions about the legitimacy of the case. Meanwhile, local officials weren't entirely convinced of Baker's story, especially as the yard decor remained unchanged in the weeks following the firestorm of media interest. Cpl. John Wachter of the Baltimore County Police Department told the Perry Hall Patch in July that the case was a "suspicious condition," and said the investigation into Baker's claims was ongoing. 

While Baker had reportedly vowed not to touch the money in late June after questions arose as to the legitimacy of her case, she wrote on her fundraising page that she will return all of the donations "with a saddened heart," citing "taxes and an overabundance of resources," The Baltimore Sun reports. 

"It was never about the money but being happy in the face of intolerance," she wrote.

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