Pro-gay Phoenix city councilor won’t resign over anti-gay remarks

Michael Nowakowski

Michael Nowakowski

PHOENIX (AP) — A Phoenix city councilman said Thursday that he will not heed calls for his resignation over a video in which he appears to bemoan same-sex marriage and transgender people’s use of restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

“I will continue to fight for all people’s rights, and I will continue to make sure the city of Phoenix is welcome to everyone,” Michael Nowakowski said during a news conference at City Hall.

The embattled councilman also reiterated an apology he issued a day earlier and said he supports gay marriage.

“I am sorry for my statements. I take them back and I’m sorry for the pain and the hurt that I caused people,” Nowakowski said. “I misspoke during an emotional conversation about a subject that’s very important to me, which is prayer. I believe that love is love.”

Gay rights organizations, activists and some fellow Democrats have demanded that he resign. Several say he broke the trust of his constituents.

“We now know that behind the scenes he’s been doing other things,” said Brendan Mahoney, chair of the Phoenix Human Relations Commission. “There’s really no way of knowing what he has failed to support or killed behind people’s backs.”

The YouTube video shows Nowakowski speaking at a meeting inside City Hall. Nowakowski was addressing a group of pastors last month about a controversy over public prayer at city meetings. The councilman is seen seguing into the subject of same-sex marriage.

“I never thought I would see the day that men and men would be married,” Nowakowski says in the video. “Or where people are allowed to go into the same bathroom as my daughter. This world is changing, and it’s time for us to take the leadership and change it back to the way it should be.”

The video has sparked condemnation since it was posted Tuesday. Mayor Greg Stanton said in a statement that he was shocked by “such homophobic views.” Several fellow council members also slammed his comments. But none have commented on the calls for his resignation. Meanwhile, Arizona’s largest private sector union said it would no longer support him.

Nowakowski said he often found it difficult to reconcile issues such as same-sex marriage with his Catholic religion. He also sought to clarify what he meant when he said the world should go “back to the way it should be.”

“When I made that comment, I was referring to prayer,” Nowakowski said. “Prayer has been at tradition with our government since our Founding Fathers.”

The councilman also said his voting record shows he has a history of protecting LGBT rights. That record and Nowakowski’s support when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage is what makes the video all the more stunning to some.

Justin Owen, executive director of Phoenix Pride, said Nowakowski previously took part in the city’s gay pride parade and was even a keynote speaker at an AIDS vigil. Though he wants Nowakowski to be held accountable, Owen stopped short of calling for him to resign.

“I would want to have a conversation with him before I could make a specific statement that he 100 percent doesn’t represent constituents and the community,” Owen said.

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