And another thing about that “Uncle Poodle”- praising op-ed by University of North Carolina professor Karen Cox. It’s great that Honey Boo Boo has an openly gay uncle. But he is no sign that “you can be openly gay and accepted in the rural South.”

“Many people assume that because the South is the nation’s most evangelical and politically conservative region, it is probably also a hotbed for hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Cox wrote. “But while such crimes do occur, they are less common than in large urban centers, where the absence of a tight community and the abundance of strangers make it easier to target people for their differences.”

Try telling that to Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers. The gay couple living in the small Texas panhandle town of Clarendon awoke a week ago today to find “Leave or die fags” painted on their front porch.

While Harrison has only lived in Clarendon for two years, Jeffers tells Pronews 7 reporter Travis Ruiz that he “lived here my entire life, pretty much since I was five.” With a population of 2,026, Clarendon fits the “tight community” that Cox said made hate crimes “less common” than in large urban centers.

Harrison and Jeffers say things started to change two weeks after Chris Moore, pastor of the Clarendon Church of Christ, ran an advertisement warning against “The Homosexual Movement.” It’s a noxious six-point assault on gay men and lesbians and their families. “Their goal is not just to have ‘equal’ rights, but superior rights,” the ad says. “Their agenda would force everyone to compromise their values, make our children legal prey for pedophiles.”

Moore slams President Obama’s support for marriage equality and admonishes his readers, “You can’t call yourself a Christian and continue to vote for these people who would enable this kind of perversion.” And now Harrison and Jeffers fear for their lives.

“I’m absolutely terrified because if there are people in this town that are willing to go to the lengths to vandalize our house and to scare us,” Harrison told Pronews 7, “then they might be going the lengths to do physical harm on us.” According to the television report, the county sheriff is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

That there is not only a hate crimes statute in Texas, but also one that includes enhanced penalties for crimes “motivated by hate, prejudice or bias” based on “sexual preference,” is a more concrete sign that the lives of gay men and lesbians are valued in the South. That Harrison and Jeffers came forward to publicly stand up for their right to be left alone says more about the South than “Uncle Poodle” every will.