Northland Pride, an organization that serves the LGBTQ community in Clay and Platte counties, issued a statement Thursday sharply condemning the comments of a North Kansas City council member who compared sexual orientation to pedophilia.
The comments by Wes Graves, who represents the city’s 1st Ward, came during a discussion Tuesday night about a Pride Month inclusion initiative.
In his first meeting since being elected, Graves raised the lone voice of opposition to a proposal that would create an “NKC United” pledge. Graves noted that he supported the intention of the initiative but said businesses and organization that chose not to participate could be harmed.
“Once you go down this road, where do you draw the line?” Graves said. “I mean, you could start bringing up pedophilia, Satan worshipers, etc. And once a city endorses something like this, we are talking about literally approaching places of worship and businesses as a city and having them make this pledge. And I don’t think this has any place in our city.”
Although Graves later apologized, many leaders in the Kansas City metro areas condemned his remarks.
Northland Pride issued a written statement Thursday.
“Bigoted statements like these are a reminder of why Northland Pride exists — to combat harmful narratives designed to ignite violence against our LGBTQIA+ family,” the statement said.
“We are saddened and appalled to learn that on Tuesday evening, North Kansas City council member Wes Graves publicly equated pedophilia with sexual orientation and the LGBTQIA+ community,” the group said. “For decades, this false, homophobic, and transphobic rhetoric has been used to build fear and distrust of the queer community.”
In his apology, Graves said he is “not a bigot” and he supports the civil rights of LGBTQ people. But his comments were immediately shut down by his fellow council members during the meeting.
Mayor Bryant DeLong called the comments “appalling and hurtful to many people in our community and organization. This viewpoint is NOT shared by the rest of the governing body or the staff in North Kansas City.”
Council member Amie Clarke said the city’s intent was to promote inclusivity.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with pedophilia,” she said. “I hate when people have to default to that or satanism or whatever it may be.”
Kansas City First District Councilman Kevin O’Neill, who represents Clay County, said he thought the comments Graves made were unnecessary.
“If you have those views then you shouldn’t be in public service,” said O’Neill who said he plans to introduce a resolution next week that would recognize Pride month in Kansas City.
“It’s a slip of a tongue that has too much meaning.”