In the video, captured on a cell phone last month, Nowakowski can be heard telling a room of clergy:
“I never thought I would see the day that men and men would be married. Or that 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.”
Mayor Greg Stanton and a handful of other city leaders immediately condemned the video, explaining that the rhetoric espoused does not represent the city of Phoenix, while Nowakowski appeared to go into sudden media hibernation mode – he ignored multiple calls from news outlets all over Phoenix, and only broke the silence with a short statement Wednesday night:
"I apologize that my comments, regardless of the context, offended anyone," Nowakowski said. "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."
But at a press conference outside of the Phoenix LGBT Pride Center this morning, dozens of leaders from various organizations around the Valley called Nowakowski’s behavior disgusting and duplicitous – the councilman has gone on the record multiple times in the last few years saying he supports marriage equality and gay rights — and said Nowakowski's apology seemed "disingenuous."
“It is unmistakably clear what the message of the video is … and it undermines all the hard work Phoenix has done for the LGBT community,” explained Brendan Mahoney of the Phoenix Human Relations Commission.
He added that as an openly gay Phoenix resident, he was "shocked and saddened” by the video because he had supported Nowakowski in the past and had thought he had an ally in the councilman.
Justin Owen, executive director of the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center, which is in Nowakowski’s district, said the councilman’s statements and action were “feeding the hatemongers“ and that his words only serve to create division and distrust.”
Owen later confirmed that the center has received multiple angry phone calls in the last few hours from people “expressing hatred, bigotry, and support of Nowakowski.”
“This man has been in our building and shown support,” Owen added. “He doesn’t represent the diverse residents of Phoenix and especially not the diverse residents of District 7.”
Local transgender activist Erica Keppler said the transgender community struggles enough as it is, so “to use this harmless, marginalized, and down-beaten group for political gain is about about as despicable a thing as a politician can do.”
Gordon Street of the First Congregation Church says for years he's heard rumors about Nowakowski's being secretly homophobic and pandering to various interest groups for money and votes, and after yesterday's video, doubts he can ever trust Nowakowski again: “Nowakowski has the right to his own political beliefs, but [it’s not okay] for him to say one thing to one crowd and something else to another crowd."
So far, only one community leader – civil rights activist Jarrett Maupin – has publicly supported Nowakowski since the video surfaced:
“Resignation is beyond ridiculous,” Reverend Maupin said in a statement. According to a press release, Maupin and “a number of community leaders” will speak about the issue at 2 p.m. outside city hall.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
It remains unclear whether Nowakowski will heed the community’s call for him to resign, but many agreed that the combination of this scandal and the shady land development deals recently exposed by the Arizona Republic signify the beginning of the end of Nowakowski’s political career.
**Update: Councilman Michael Nowakowski said he would not resign during a press conference he held this afternoon. He pointed to his record of voting for equality and supporting LGBT issues, and said he planned to continue supporting this issues moving forward.