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Gay history exhibit removed from museum at Missouri Capitol

September 2, 2021 GMT

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Democratic state senator has demanded an explanation after an exhibit on the gay rights movement in Kansas City was removed from the state Capitol following Republican complaints.

Kansas City Sen. Greg Razer, the only openly gay member of the Missouri Senate, said Thursday that he was “appalled” when he was told the exhibit, “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” had been removed from the Missouri State Museum at the Capitol.

State Parks, which is part of the Department of Natural Resources, oversees the museum. Razer said he reached out to DNR Director Dru Buntin and State Parks Director David Kelly asking what had happened.

Connie Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement that the exhibit was removed because the department did not follow a state law that requires it to coordinate activities at the museum with the Board of Public Buildings.

Patterson said Gov. Mike Parson was not aware of the exhibit until his office received several complaints about it.

“We take seriously our commitment to telling Missouri’s stories and regret that we neglected to follow” state law, Patterson said.

Razer said he spoke Thursday afternoon to Buntin, who gave him the same reason as Patterson for the removal and would not commit to reinstating the exhibit, The Kansas City Star reported.

“My guess is, and obviously he would not give me a straight answer on this, is they never go to the board to get permission to put up a temporary exhibit,” Razer said. “There’s always rotating temporary exhibits.”

Instead, Razer said the state pulled the exhibit after complaints from Republican lawmakers, “and now I’ve found out and made a stink out of it and they found this way out.”

The display consisted of banners, curated by Missouri-Kansas City history students, that recount the activism of the city’s LGBT community. It was on display for only four days before it was taken down, even though it had been scheduled to be remain until Dec. 26.

“There is NOTHING controversial about an exhibit that explains how members of the LGBT community fought to end persecution and demand rights as citizens,” Razer tweeted on Thursday. “I’m extremely disappointed and angry that @mostateparks may think otherwise.”

On Tuesday, Uriah Stark, legislative aide for state Rep. Mitch Boggs, a Republican from La Russell, posted pictures of the exhibit on Facebook and questioned why the “taxpayer-funded museum is pushing the LGBT agenda in our state Capitol?”

The next day, Stark thanked “several of our great elected officials” for having the exhibit removed, specifically mentioning Republican Reps. Ann Kelley, of Lamar, and Brian Seitz, of Branson, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Seitz, who said he had not seen the exhibit, said he called the museum’s curator to ask “why that exhibit was placed there at this time, what was the purpose behind the exhibit, and just see who made the call as far as putting that at the Capitol.” He said his phone call was not returned.

Rep. Kelley did not respond to requests for comment, The Star reported.