News (USA)

Phoenix city councilman sparks outrage with antigay remarks

Phoenix city councilman sparks outrage with antigay remarks
PHOENIX — Gay rights organizations called on a Phoenix city councilman to resign Thursday in the wake of video showing him bemoaning same-sex marriage and transgender people’s use of restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Several activists and fellow Democrats said Councilman Michael Nowakowski, who has supported gay rights in the past, had broken 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. According to the post, Nowakowski was addressing a group of Evangelical ministers last month about public prayer at 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.”

“I condemn these ignorant comments in the strongest terms, and hope and pray the councilman will open his heart and begin to appreciate the diversity of the people he represents,” Stanton said.

Several fellow councilmembers also slammed his comments. Arizona’s largest private sector union, UFCW 99, said it would no longer support him.

Nowakowski issued an apology Wednesday and sought to clarify his remarks. He said he often found it difficult to reconcile issues such as same-sex marriage with his Catholic religion.

“My reference in the video to ‘returning to the way it should be’ was in regards to prayer at City Council meetings, not to roll back LGBTQ rights. I understand why my statement in the video was misconstrued, and I apologize,” Nowakowski said.

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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