Why an Elgin man says he painted rainbow on Victorian home

  • Church of the Brethren Inc. in Elgin wants painter Joshua Martin to paint over a gay pride-like rainbow on a house it owns at 923 W. Highland Ave. The rainbow is at the center of a dispute between Martin and a neighbor.

    Church of the Brethren Inc. in Elgin wants painter Joshua Martin to paint over a gay pride-like rainbow on a house it owns at 923 W. Highland Ave. The rainbow is at the center of a dispute between Martin and a neighbor. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Joshua Martin, right, and his partner Nicole Sensor of Josh's Painting painted a rainbow stripe on a house owned by Church of the Brethren Inc. in Elgin. Martin said he knew the rainbow would irk the next-door neighbor as part of a dispute over money.

    Joshua Martin, right, and his partner Nicole Sensor of Josh's Painting painted a rainbow stripe on a house owned by Church of the Brethren Inc. in Elgin. Martin said he knew the rainbow would irk the next-door neighbor as part of a dispute over money. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/28/2017 9:49 AM

A gay pride-like rainbow painted on an Elgin house is at the center of a dispute between a painter and a neighbor over money.

The rainbow was painted on the house at 923 W. Highland Ave., which is owned by Church of the Brethren Inc., and now the church wants the colorful stripe removed.

 

Painter Joshua Martin said church officials told him it was up to him how to paint the house. Painting Victorian houses in bright colors is his passion, and he loves the vibrancy of the rainbow, which he insists he would have painted anyway, he said. But he also said he knew it would irk Brad Miller, who lives next door.

"If they actually make me paint over it, I'm going to put a clear coat. It's just going to make it shinier," Martin said.

Miller and his girlfriend, Sandra Maringer, say the rainbow is a "vendetta" by Martin, who previously painted their house. They complained to the church and say they are now being unfairly portrayed as anti-gay by Facebook commenters.

The Highland Avenue residence houses church volunteers, Church of the Brethren officials said. The church has offices on Dundee Avenue and congregations across the country.

David Steele, the church's general secretary, said in an email "the rainbow stripe on the house was a surprise" to church officials.

"While we did give the painter permission to choose the paint colors on the house, we had no indication from the painter that he had chosen to paint a rainbow on the side of the house," he wrote. "Given that this was not our choice and it is our desire to have the house blend in with the rest of the neighborhood, we have instructed the painter to paint over the rainbow stripe."

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Money is at the heart of the dispute between Martin and Miller. Martin says Miller owes him for painting work; Miller says Martin wanted to charge him more than agreed.

Martin said the rainbow he painted at 923 W. Highland Ave. comes in seven colors, not six like the gay pride flag, but any association with gay pride symbolism "is fine by me," he said.

Marvin Greener, the church's director of buildings and grounds, said he was aware of the painter's plan.

"He told me that he wanted to do a rainbow, and I didn't care," Greener said. "I gave him creative license."

Greener said his superiors didn't like the rainbow. He declined to comment on the gay pride symbolism.

Miller said his objection is about aesthetics.

"I like more keeping a house historic as it should be, and the whole rainbow doesn't go with that. That's my complaint," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Some on Facebook said they will stage a protest Thursday. "I feel like I am being wrongly persecuted for something, and I'm the one being made out to be the bad guy," Maringer said.

Several houses painted by Martin and his business, Josh's Painting, have been recognized in the Chicago's Finest Painted Ladies & Her Court competition, an exterior painting contest. The next competition is in September, and Martin said he hopes church officials, with whom he's meeting Thursday, will leave his rainbow untouched at least until then.

The church has paid for the do-over, and the extra charge was included in the final check for the painting job, Martin said.

The Brethren denomination's umbrella includes Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, which for years has had an outdoor bench painted in gay pride colors, Pastor Katie Shaw Thompson said. That church has no association with the house painted by Martin, she said.

"I think (the rainbow) is beautiful and hopeful," she said. "No matter what happens to the paint on that house, our bench isn't going anywhere."

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