By Catharine Huddle
Three days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people of the same sex may marry one another, a flag went up outside the Alley bar at 1031 M St.
It looked like an American flag, but it was the colors of the rainbow.
And that made James "Tony" Cascio see red.
"I found it highly insulting to deface our country's flag," said the 54-year-old Lincoln man who was working at a nearby construction site.
"The fact that it's a gay bar has nothing to do with it," Cascio said Monday. "I went over and expressed my unhappiness. I even told them they have the right to be gay.
"The American flag is red, white and blue. It is not pink, purple, orange and yellow."
Cascio visited the bar on a Tuesday, the day after the flag went up. When he showed up the following Monday to operate the elevator where Beal Derkenne Construction is building Latitude Living Spaces, a student housing project at 10th and N streets, he was called in and fired.
He admits he was mad when he went to the bar, but he says he was not threatening.
"He was," said Matthew Moore, who owns what he calls a gay-friendly establishment. "You could tell he was very angry. He called us faggots and other derogatory names.
"He said, 'If you don’t take this flag down, I will and I'll destroy anything in my way of doing so.' ... I took it down because I care more about the safety of my patrons than a flag."
Then, Moore went to the Latitude office to report the incident and, on request, provided general manager David Brown with security footage of it.
"Latitude said they would take care of the rest, and it looks like they did," Moore said Monday. "I don’t want to take anyone’s livelihood away from them, but you don’t need to act like that in public. He could have handled it like an adult."
Cascio said it's his opinion that homosexuality goes against God and the Bible, but that's not what set him off.
"If the Night Before would have had it up I would have done the same thing. I was truly offended. I feel persecuted for defending our flag."
Cascio said he was on his own time and speaking for himself.
"He made kind of a scene," said Justin Beck, a superintendent on the BDC job site. "All I can tell you is that the bar went to the owners of our building and said that this incident happened, and the owners took it as a black mark on the building, and they didn’t want that kind of a person to be affiliated with the job.
"So we felt our only course of action was to terminate."
Mark Matthews and Carl Grosebeck of Argent Group, which is building the student housing project with joint venture partner CA Student Living, didn't know the specifics of the incident but said Cascio's actions are not, in fact, the kind of thing they want associated with their project.
Whether he was on the clock isn't necessarily relevant, they said from their office in Chicago.
"There are conduct requirements in all of our various contracts," Grosebeck said. "And ... they can be surprisingly strict."
In the end, the rainbow flag came down, and Cascio feels good about that.
"That was my goal. Was it worth losing my job? Yes and no."
And while he thinks Moore broke the law by flying the rainbow flag, Dave Salak, adjutant of the American Legion Department of Nebraska, said he didn't.
"In my mind, it wouldn’t be an American flag if it wasn’t in the appropriate colors," he said. "(But) it's not a crime nor any kind of breach of flag etiquette. I imagine it struck a nerve."