An Overlea woman who received more than $43,000 in donations after claiming a neighbor complained her yard was "becoming Relentlessly Gay" has ended her online fundraising campaign.
Julie Baker, 47, said she stopped the GoFundMe campaign because it had raised "plenty, more than plenty." She thanked those who donated and encouraged them to "carry on flooding the world with rainbows and joy."
Baker's story of finding an angry note at the door of her Kenwood Avenue home after she hung a rainbow-colored lawn ornament went viral online and was greeted by support — and some skepticism. Rainbows are often used as gay-rights symbols.
"Your yard is becoming Relentlessly Gay!" the note said. "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."
Some online commenters pointed out that the unorthodox capitalization of words in the note is reminiscent of Baker's GoFundMe post and wondered whether she had written the note herself.
In an interview, Baker denied it unequivocally, saying she "absolutely" was not the author.
"I don't think I'm the only person on the planet that has ever randomly capitalized things," she said. "I've seen that around and if people want to believe that, that's fine, I don't care. I don't know why people want to be negative."
The GoFundMe page was removed entirely for a time Tuesday before reappearing on the site, which Baker said happened while the fundraising site's administrators reached out to her to check on the campaign's legitimacy. The page reappeared Tuesday night, accepting no further donations.
Baker said the accusations had nothing to do with her ending the campaign; she said it was just too much money.
"It was getting frighteningly large," she said. "I don't think any one person needs that much money."
GoFundMe did not respond to a request for comment.
Baker said she has loved rainbows her whole life. Her arms are tattooed with rainbows, and her daughters have rainbow-dyed hair.
She said she was bewildered when she saw the note because the lawn decoration — a line of multi-colored jars hung on a pipe — wasn't intended to be a gay rights symbol.
"They made this huge assumption," Baker said. "Am I absolutely 100-percent pro-gay rights? Yes. Does this have anything to do with it? No."
Baker took a photo of the note and posted it to Facebook last week. She said her daughter suggested she make the GoFundMe page to raise $50 or so to paint the house in rainbows.
For kicks, she said, they made the goal $5,000. Then, a friend shared it on Star Trek actor George Takei's Facebook page, and her story exploded online.
Two days later, people had donated more than five times that amount. Someone from New Jersey sent a package filled with rainbow lollipops, plates, cups and homemade "Relentlessly Gay" stickers. T-shirts were in the works. A website about her story, "relentlesslygay.com," was created.
"It was thrown at me as an insult," she said. "I love that the Internet has turned it into a compliment."
Dr. Munivtappa Shetty, who lives a few houses down, said Baker and her family were "pretty nice people."
Baker's uncle once helped Shetty's wife when she had car problems, he said. "That's what everybody thinks — good neighbors will look out for each other," Shetty said.
Shetty said he sees Baker and her daughters every day and noticed the rainbow fixture in the lawn, but didn't take it as a gay rights symbol; he just figured it was an exercise in "creative thinking."
The Rev. Carrie Finch, of Kenwood Presbyterian Church across the street called the colored jars "quite pretty."
Michelle Harr, office manager for Dr. Wilbur R. Roese's internal medicine practice, next to the church on Kenwood Avenue, was as blown away by how much traction the story got online.
"I thought it was a cute idea," she said, of the yard ornament. "Then it flashed up on my news feed."
As she spoke, she clicked over to her browser and refreshed Baker's GoFundMe page, which was already up. Harr said her family had used an online fundraiser to raise $3,000 for her cousin's burial. It took a week.
"I was amazed with what she raised in a day," she said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Dance contributed to this article.