Generally speaking, when it comes to civil rights issues, people usually evolve, they don’t devolve. Except in the case of Phoenix councilman Michael Nowakowski.
Nowakowski, a Democrat who previously supported LGBTQ rights, was just outed for saying some pretty horrible things about gay and trans people in a video uploaded to YouTube.
In the video, Nowakowski, who clearly doesn’t know he’s being recorded, can be heard telling a roomful of people, “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.”
Now, if he were your just average right-wing bigot, that sort of comment wouldn’t be so shocking. The problem is, it’s a polar opposite viewpoint to what Nowakowski has said publicly in the past.
Not very long ago, Nowakowski voiced support for a 2013 non-discrimination ordinance offering protections to LGBT residents in Phoenix and allowed trans people to use the public restrooms that match their gender identity. And in 2014, after same-sex marriage was legalized in Arizona, he released a statement saying, in part, “Love is love. … This ruling sends a clear message that Arizona is not a discriminatory place and will hopefully help the healing process from past legislative actions.”
Apparently, Nowakowski no longer holds those positions.
Or does he?
Immediately after the video hit the Internet, he released a statement explaining his remarks: “I apologize that my comments, regardless of the context, offended anyone. 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.”
He followed that up by posting a hastily-recorded apology video to his official Facebook page saying that “as a practicing Catholic” he often has difficultly “reconciling” his religious views with the law, but that he ultimately believes “no government official should enforce or impose any religious document on others in the public square.”
But not everyone is 100 percent convinced by the apology.
Rebecca Wininger, co-chair of Equality Arizona’s policy committee, accused Nowakowski of voicing support for LGBT rights “in public to get votes and donations and support” but then “spouting something completely different” behind closed doors.
“What we want is the truth,” she said. “If Councilman Nowakowski’s faith really does prohibit him from embracing equality in the gay community, I think that’s something we and his voters need to know.”
Even Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has weighed in on the scandal, saying he was “shocked that a councilmember who represents so many LGBT individuals in the heart of our city would hold such homophobic views,” condemning Nowakowski’s “ignorant comments” and calling on him to “open his heart and begin to appreciate the diversity of the people he represents.”