Martinsville billboard creates controversy

Billboard says marriage is '1 man + 1 woman'

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Heading west on Commonwealth Boulevard in Martinsville, you can’t miss the giant billboard that has a silhouette of a man and a woman holding hands and says marriage is "1 man + 1 woman."

“It’s time for conversation," Collinsvile Community Fellowship Church Pastor Michael Harrison said. 

His church is not responsible for the sign, but he is conflicted.

“I agree. The scripture is very clear about marriage. But I also want people to understand that we can disagree and be kind about it. That’s really what I want people to know. Anybody is welcome here at our church. We really, as humans, ought to be loving toward each other,” Harrison said.

According to the billboard, it was put up by Thou Shall Ministries.

The organization’s address is a home in Martinsville.

No one answered when 10 News knocked on the door.

There is no phone number or website for the organization.

“If this billboard has taught us something in Martinsville and Henry County, we are a city without limits. This doesn’t define my community, nor yours,” Harrison said.

At the barber shop next door to the church, the barber and a half dozen people waiting for haircuts said they agree with the billboard and are glad to see it.

No one wanted to speak on camera.

“It’s sad and it’s disappointing,” said Liz Cervantes, co-founder of a local LGBTQ group called Collidescope, while describing her reaction to the billboard.

She hopes the billboard sparks conversation that could help overcome what she calls a systemic stigma of same-sex couples.

“It has to start locally, and that’s one of the things that Callidascope is trying to do," Cervantes said.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise $2,000 to put up a Pride billboard in response to the controversial billboard.

What the billboard would look like and where it would be was unclear Friday.

The message on the GoFundMe account's page asks people to come forward with ideas for a billboard that expresses a message of inclusiveness and tolerance.

Cervantes says if a Pride billboard is put up, it may not be as effective as people think.

“If it’s coming from a place of pettiness or anger, that’s obviously not going to further any kind of acceptance and love that we’re trying to spread. So I think it would have to be done very tactfully and I don’t know that that message could do what they want it to," Cervantes said.

As of Friday afternoon, the GoFundMe account had raised $400.

On Friday, 10 News reached out to the account's manager but did not get a response.