KANSAS CITY, Mo — Sen. Greg Razer is demanding answers after an exhibit on the history of the LGBTQ rights movement in Missouri was removed from the state Capitol.
The traveling exhibit, which went on display at the Missouri State Museum, was produced in part by the University of Missouri-Kansas City and was supposed to be on display through Dec. 26.
“After four days, I found out that it had been taken down and [the] traveling exhibit put back in a closet. I feel like I’ve been put back in a closet,” said Razer, who represents District 7 that includes parts of Jackson County. "I’ve looked at what was in that exhibit. There is nothing that is inappropriate. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is things to be celebrated."
Razer is the only openly gay member of the Missouri Senate.
He said the exhibit represented and told the stories of people who made it possible for him to be serving his elected position today. The exhibit showcases the vital role Kansas City played in the fight for gay rights, including its opportunity to host the first-ever LGBTQ national civil rights conference.
“There are members that I serve with who want to silence that history, that don’t want that to be told, because they are bothered," Razer said. "I don’t know exactly by what, but certainly by the fact that I exist."
The museum, which is on the first floor of the Missouri Capitol, is operated by Missouri State Parks, which is under the guidance of the Department of Natural Resources.
Razer reached out to Missouri State Parks Director Mark Sutherland.
“I just got off the phone with the man who was in charge, who made the decision,” Razer said. “I did not get a clear answer, so we have a formal Sunshine request to his office, and we will get the answers.”
Razer is hoping to find out who was behind the initiative to remove the exhibit and their reasons to do so. He is unsure if the matter was discussed in public with other members of the Missouri General Assembly.
“The legislative branch really doesn't have anything to do with what exhibits are shown in that museum," Razer said. "However, the legislative branch oversees the budget of the state park service."
On Tuesday, a legislative assistant to Rep. Mitch Boggs took to social media and asked why a “taxpayer funded museum is pushing the LGBT agenda in our state capitol?”
Uriah Stark returned the next day to thank "several of our great elected officials" including Republican Representatives Ann Kelley and Brian Seitz for having the exhibit removed.
We reached out to the offices of both representatives and received a response from Rep. Brian Steiz:
“My involvement was that I simply called the museum director and left a message for a return call (which I have not received). My question would have been, "Why was this time chosen for the display, is it needed and was there an agenda behind the timing, as school children may be taking trips to the Capitol in the near future? Would this display have been age appropriate and does it represent the feelings and concerns of most Missourians?"
-- Representative Brian H. Seitz
The office of Governor Mike Parson says the exhibit was removed after The Department of Natural Resources failed to meet the statutory requirements for approval:
“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. The statutorily mandated process was not followed in this instance, thereby, causing the Department of Natural Resources to remove the display.”
-- Kelli R. Jones, Communications Director for Gov. Mike Parson
Director of Communications for The Department of Natural Resources, Connie Patterson, confirmed the information from the Governor’s office Thursday afternoon:
“We take seriously our commitment to telling Missouri’s stories and regret that we neglected to follow RSMo Section 184.101. We commit to working with the Board of Public Meetings regarding displays and exhibits at the Capitol.”
--Connie Patterson, Director of Communications for The Department of Natural Resources