Councilman won't resign after gay rights remarks

Posted at 10:53 AM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 20:50:24-05

Phoenix Councilman Michael Nowakowski spoke out Thursday as community leaders called for his resignation after he made controversial remarks about gay rights.

The councilman said he will not resign, and referenced his previous voting record as proof that he is not homophobic.

"I support civil unions. I support domestic partnerships. My voting record proves these statements," Nowakowski said at a Thursday press conference.

Leaders from various groups, including Arizona Pride, Equality Arizona and Maricopa County Democratic Party, called for Nowakowski to leave his post after video surfaced this week of him denouncing gay rights in front of religious leaders.

Brendan Mahoney, a local attorney and chair of the Phoenix Human Relations Commission, said at a Thursday rally Nowakowski's past support of gay rights appeared to be a "calculated move purely for personal political gain."

“I never thought I would see the day that men and men would be married. Or where people are allowed to go into the same bathroom as my daughter," Nowakowski says in the video, which was posted to Youtube on Tuesday, to a group of Latino religious leaders. "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 Wednesday afternoon, the councilman apologized and said his words were "misconstrued."

"As a practicing Catholic, it is often hard to personally reconcile such issues on a religious perspective. That said, I know that I represent a diverse district that includes members of the LGBTQ community. My record shows that I have voted to protect our diverse community, giving an equal voice in government to all."

Mahoney said he understands how religious teachings can affect daily life, "but what's so troubling here is that the councilman concealed that struggle from all of us while he sought out endorsements, money and votes, and when we weren't in the room behind our backs he revealed his true thoughts." 

Nowakowski said his remarks of "returning to the way it should be" were about prayer at City Council meetings.

Click here to read the councilman's full statement.

"My future voting record will continue to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community, regardless of any church teachings or proclamations," the statement read.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99 President sent a strongly-worded letter to the councilman saying they would be pulling their support.

"Local 99 stands with Arizonans across the state who find your comments both duplicitous and disgraceful. Your behavior makes me wonder what else you have been hiding, how else you have misled us."

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