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Phoenix councilman who backed LGBT rights disparages gay community

PHOENIX — A Phoenix councilman who once described gay marriage as “love is love” is coming under fire after he made anti-LGBT comments to a gathering of pastors.

Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski was speaking to the group last month about the firestorm surrounding the opening prayer at council meetings when he was heard decrying gay marriage and transgender rights.

“I never thought I would see the day that men and men would be married,” Nowakowski said in the video. “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.”

His speech to pastors — originally posted to Facebook on Feb. 3 — was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday, where it began making the rounds. Critics jumped on the video, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton among them.

“I am shocked that a councilmember who represents so many LGBT individuals in the heart of our city would hold such homophobic views,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Equality Arizona, a group that endorsed Nowakowski’s 2011 run for council, also condemned the comments in a Facebook post, calling them “an outrageous statement of bigotry that exposes his previous statements of support for equality as lies.”

The group continued, writing “These hateful, bigoted comments don’t represent our community or city.”

Another campaign backer, United Food and Commercial Workers, condemned the councilman’s statements.

“Let me be very clear: Local 99 stands with Arizonans across the state who find your comments both duplicitous and disgraceful,'” Union President Jim McLaughlin wrote in a letter. “Your behavior makes me wonder what else you have been hiding, how else you have misled us.”

McLaughlin promised the union would no longer support Nowakowski because “we have little doubt that you have decided you no longer need the people who helped to get you to where you are now.”

Nowakowski apologized for this statements in a Facebook post. The councilman claimed his comments were taken slightly out of context, as when he said “change it back to the way it should be” in the video referred to the prayer in city council meetings, not LGBT rights.

“I understand why my statement in the video was misconstrued, and I apologize,” the post read.

Nowakowski said he sometimes struggles as a Catholic to come to terms with some issues from a religious perspective, but that he still wants to defend civil liberties — including LGBT rights — from discrimination.

“I know that I represent a diverse district that includes members of the LGBTQ community,” the statement said. “My record shows that I have voted to protect our diverse community, giving an equal voice in government to all. My future voting record will continue to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community, regardless of any church teachings or proclamations.”

“I will continue to vote for equal treatment for all within our city, and I will continue to treat all people with the respect they deserve.”

After a court ruling legalized gay marriage in Arizona, Nowakowski publicly backed the decision in 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.”

Phoenix has been recognized as one of the nation’s best cities for LGBT equality by the Human Rights Campaign.

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