A Democratic City Council member in Phoenix is facing criticism and calls to resign after a video of him denouncing LGBT rights surfaced online Tuesday, The Arizona Republic reports.
Councilman Michael Nowakowski had previously stated his support for marriage equality. But in the recently uncovered video, Nowakowski makes disparaging 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.”
In a statement issued on Facebook Wednesday, Nowakowski apologized for his comments and said he had trouble reconciling support for LGBT rights with his Catholic beliefs. At the same time, he said his reference in the video to "returning to the way it should be" was regarding maintaining prayer at city council meetings, not denying LGBT rights.
He made the speech shortly before the City Council was to take a vote regarding prayer at council meetings last month. The vote was called as an effort to stop a group of satanists from delivering the prayer, according to the paper.
"I understand why my statement in the video was misconstrued, and I apologize," Nowakowski wrote on Facebook.
Nowakowski has a record of supporting LGBT rights. After a court ruling brought marriage equality to Arizona in 2014, Nowakowski 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."
In a video response posted to Facebook, the councilman said he would "continue to vote for equal treatment for all within our city, and I will continue to treat all people with the respect they deserve."
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 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.”
In 2013 the Phoenix City Council passed an ordinance protecting LGBT people from discrimination. The ordinance extended citywide protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations to cover sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities. Mayor Stanton championed the change. His wife has also been a visible spokesperson against teen bullying, including the harassment of LGBT youth.
Watch the leaked video of Nowakowski below.