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Missouri State Senator Demands Answers After LGBTQ Exhibit Removed From State Capitol

The exhibit titled, “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” was created by a group of University of Missouri-Kansas City students using GLAMA collections.

A Missouri senator is demanding answers on why an exhibit highlighting Kansas City’s LGBTQ rights movement was removed from the state Capitol.

The exhibit titled “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights” was recently invited to display at the Missouri State Museum on the first floor of the Capitol. The project, created by University of Missouri-Kansas City students, documented decades of local gay activism.

Missouri State Sen. Greg Razer, an openly gay lawmaker from Kansas City, said he was “appalled” to find the exhibit had been removed just days after it was installed.

“The history of LGBT Missourians is the history of Missouri,” said Razer. “This is the story that tells how we got from that point to me serving in that building. Colleagues of mine that I work with, and apparently the state parks department, decided that that was an offensive story to tell.”

Razer said he believed the parks department, which oversees the museum, removed the exhibit in response to political pressure from other legislators.

Connie Patterson, a spokesperson from the Department of Natural Resources, said in an email that the department had not followed a state statute that requires it to coordinate museum-related activities with the Board of Public Buildings. Since the mandated process was not followed, the department removed the display.

Patterson also wrote that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was not aware of the exhibit until his office received multiple complaints.

The traveling exhibit created by University of Missouri-Kansas City students incorporates materials from the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America housed at the university's Miller Nichols Library.
University Of Missouri-Kansas City / GLAMA
"Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights" displayed for only a few days at the Missouri State Museum before its removal.

Uriah Stark, a legislative aide for state Rep. Mitch Boggs, a Republican from LaRussell, posted a complaint about the exhibit on Facebook on Tuesday.

“So is there any good reason that our taxpayer funded museum is pushing the LGBT agenda in our state capitol?” Stark wrote. “These are literally in-your-face banners that you can’t walk through the museum without seeing … and they’re scheduled to be there through December.”

On Wednesday, Stark wrote a post celebrating that the exhibit had been removed, crediting state Rep. Ann Kelley and Rep. Brian Seitz, both of whom are Republicans. Kelley has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Seitz told KCUR that he had only called the museum's director once, but had not heard back. He said he wanted to know why the exhibit was allowed, and if there was an agenda behind doing so. With school children often visiting the capitol at this time, he said he was worried if the exhibit's content is appropriate.

Seitz said he had not visited the exhibit in person, and had only seen photos on Facebook.

Razer said, “I have looked at what was in this exhibit. There is absolutely nothing, nothing inappropriate about what was in this exhibit. Unless you simply want to shove me, and people like me, back in the closet."

Razer said the only agenda that he is pushing is the passage of a law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT individuals.

Lawmakers have failed to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act for more than two decades. Razer said the removal of the exhibit is proof there is still bigotry under the Capitol’s roof and across the state.

House Minority Floor Leader Crystal Quade announced on Thursday that she is calling for immediate reinstatement of the exhibit.

“The removal amid political pressure of a temporary display in the Missouri Capitol Museum commemorating the struggle for LGBT rights in Kansas City is just the latest example of the Republican war on the truth" Quade wrote in a statement.

Razer said he is waiting on a call from the directors of the state parks department and department of natural resources. He said he also wants the exhibit back in the museum and also wants answers. If the exhibit is not allowed in the museum, he wants to know how welcome LGBTQ Missourians are at the rest of the state’s parks.

“Nothing about the decision that was made yesterday, to put our history back in the closet, tells me that we are welcome in Missouri State Parks,” Razer said.
Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Jodi Fortino