When Lisa Licata, 43, and her wife, Sherry Lau, 56, first saw what would eventually become their home in the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, they thought it was perfect. But soon after they moved in, they said they realized their neighbors were not.
“The woman who lives next door to us said, ‘I’m so glad you guys bought this house,’” Licata recalled. “She then added, ‘I was afraid the black family was going to get it.’”
“That threw us off,” Licata told NBC News. “Why judge people based on their skin color?” She said the uncomfortable 2013 exchange prevented her from letting the neighbors know she and Lau were lesbians, telling them that they were mother and daughter instead.
However, two years after the women and their son, who has autism, moved in, the neighbors found out Licata and Lau were a couple. “It all went downhill from there,” Licata said.
The women allege that for the past three years, Ron Makay and Iolanda Wieczorkowski, the heterosexual couple that live next door, called them anti-gay slurs, including “homos” and “dykes.”
“Nobody seems to care that they do this,” Licata said, adding that Makay and Wieczorkowski have even harassed them in front of the police, an accusation the Penn Hills Police Department would not comment on.
Licata also claimed Makay has done “some creepy stuff,” including peering into their window at 6:30 one morning. But nothing, she said, was as bad as what he did in July.
After repeatedly accusing the women of “throwing dog feces in his yard,” which the women deny, Makay allegedly shot their dog with a BB gun as the dog relieved itself on their lawn near the border of Makay’s property.
“The cops wouldn’t do anything until we got a vet report, because it was like our word against theirs,” Licata said.
After a veterinarian saw the dog, Makay was charged with animal cruelty and discharging an air rifle in a public space, according to Penn Hills Police Chief Howard Burton, who said a hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 20.
Neither Makay nor Wieczorkowski responded to NBC News' requests for comment. However, the couple's attorney, Cory Ricci, told NBC News Makay did not shoot the dog and looks forward to his day in court. Ricci would not comment on the anti-gay and racial slur allegations.
“LET’S PAINT THE SIDE OF THE HOUSE”
Licata and Lau, both natives of the Pittsburgh area, began dating 13 years ago after meeting at Kelly’s Korner, a dive bar.
“We first became really good friends, and then we ended up falling in love,” said Licata, a stay-at-home mom who describes Lau, a carpenter, as “the type of person who would give anybody the shirt off her back.”
After a decade together, the two women got legally married three years ago, shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in the U.S. It was also around this time, they say, that the homophobic name-calling began.
Licata and Lau initially decided to put up a fence on their property line with Makay and Wieczorkowski. The fence didn’t bother Makay and his wife, they said, but what they did next did.
“We had it painted rainbow,” Licata said. "He’s sick and tired of seeing the rainbow.”
After Makay made his anti-rainbow views known at a town hearing, Licata and Lau doubled down.
“We just had the idea, let’s paint the side of the house that faces them rainbow, too. Just to make a statement we are here to stay,” Licata explained.
“I shouldn't have to move to make room for someone else’s intolerance,” Licata added. “We don’t pry into their marriage. So why should our marriage be judged by them?”
Licata said that while “99 percent” of the feedback has been positive since they started painted the side of their house a few weeks ago, there are people who have sided with the neighbors and said "we should be low key and not let anyone know we’re gay.”
“But why?” Licata asked. “With straight marriages, you don't have to be low key, so why should we have to be?”
After having their dog attacked, the couple now plan to paint their entire house in rainbow colors.
Licata said she hopes their story inspires others to “stand up to people who don’t agree with your lifestyle.”
“Be who you are, but not only that,” she added. “Be proud of who are you.”