Aug Sept 2016
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The Advocate

Caught Making Antigay Remarks, Phoenix Lawmaker Won't Resign

michael nowakowski, phoenix, arizona

A Phoenix City Council member said Thursday that he will not resign from his position, after a video leaked online showed him making disparaging remarks against same-sex marriage and equal access for transgender people, reports ABC News

During a news conference at Phoenix City Hall, Michael Nowakowski pledged that "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."

Nowakowski issued a video apology Wednesday on Facebook, and reiterated that sentiment during Thursday's news conference. "I am sorry for my statements. I take them back and I'm sorry for the pain and the hurt that I caused people," the local lawmaker 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."

The councilman had previously voiced his support for marriage equality, and has voted in favor of LGBT protections in Phoenix. But in the recently uncovered video, Nowakowski makes critical remarks about the advance of LGBT equality to an audience of Christian pastors in English and in Spanish, through a translator. In the video, reportedly filmed in February, he says:

“I never thought I would see the day that men and men would be married. Or where people were 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.”  

But Nowakowski has a record of supporting LGBT rights. After a court ruling brought marriage equality to Arizona in 2014, he issued a statement saying: 

"Love is love. Who are we to say otherwise or to judge on how individuals feel? ... This ruling sends a clear message that Arizona is not a discriminatory place and will hopefully help the healing process from past legislative actions."

Numerous lawmakers have spoken out against Nowakowski, some asking for his resignation. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, issued a statement condemning the councilman for the video, which appears to have been filmed at City Hall.

"I am shocked that a council member who represents so many LGBT individuals in the heart of our city would hold such homophobic views," Stanton told the Arizona Republic. "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.”

Justin Owen, executive director of Phoenix Pride, told ABC News that Nowakowski had previously participated in the Phoenix LGBT pride parade, and had spoken as a keynote speaker at an AIDS vigil. "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 told ABC News. 

In 2013, the Phoenix City Council passed an ordinance protecting LGBT people from discrimination, following Mayor Stanton's championing of the change. The ordinance extended citywide protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations to cover sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities. Nowakowski voiced his support for the nondiscrimination ordinance, but was traveling on the day the council took its vote on the measure, according to the Republic.

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