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Missouri LGBTQ exhibit finds new home after removal from Capitol

Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights
Posted at 6:50 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-04 00:05:12-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A gay-rights exhibit that was removed from the Missouri State Capitol after the governor’s office received several complaints has found a new home.

The Department of Natural Resources announced Friday that the exhibit would be displayed in the Lohman Building at Jefferson Landing State Historic Site, beginning Saturday.

“We apologize for the way this unfolded,” Dru Buntin, director of the Department of Natural Resources, said in a news release. “We agree the history of all Missourians is an important story that needs to be told, and we’ve made a commitment to work with the members of the State Capitol Commission and the Board of Public Buildings to do so.”

Gov. Mike Parson’s office told KSHB 41 News on Thursday that the governor was unaware of the display, “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” that documents LGBTQ history in the state.

“The Department of Natural Resources manages the Museum, and state statute requires the department to coordinate activities relating to the museum with the Board of Public Buildings,” Kelli Jones, communications director for Parson’s office, said in an email. “The statutorily mandated process was not followed in this instance, thereby, causing the Department of Natural Resources to remove the display."

Sen. Greg Razer, who represents District 7, which includes a portion of Jackson County, was among those who wanted answers for why the exhibit was removed.

Razer, the only openly gay Missouri Senate member, previously told KSHB 41 News that the exhibit — curated, in part, by the University of Missouri-Kansas City — told the stories of people who made it possible for him to serve in the Senate.

“I’ve looked at what was in that exhibit. There is nothing that is inappropriate,” Razer said. "It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is things to be celebrated."

The Department of Natural Resources said in the release that “careful review of the museum’s interpretive and exhibit guidance” shows that exhibits like the LGBTQ display “are often housed” at the historic site.

“In response to a number of concerns, we made the decision to move the exhibit while we clarified and reviewed our internal process to make sure we were complying with state law,” Mike Sutherland, deputy department director, said in the release.

Missouri law states that the museum must “coordinate with the Board of Public Buildings,” of which Parson is a member, to display items in the Capitol.

However, a review of Board of Public Buildings Minutes dating back to July 2012 found that no exhibit displayed at the Missouri State Museum has been discussed before in at least nine years, including the LGBTQ exhibit.

The Lohman Building is adjacent to the state Capitol.