The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

An LGBT history exhibit went up in the Missouri Capitol. A lawmaker’s staffer complained, and it disappeared.

Lights shine on the Missouri Capitol as guests arrive for a 2017 inaugural ball in Jefferson City, Mo. (Orlin Wagner/AP)

For a couple of days in 1966, Missouri was the heart of gay rights activism in America.

During a two-day conference, some 40 people from 15 LGBT groups met in a Kansas City hotel to form the National Planning Conference of Homosexual Organizations, which one local newspaper called “the first national concerted effort of organizations composed of homosexuals or concerned with their problems.”

Together, they declared that being gay was “a justifiable way of life” and pushed leaders across the country to abolish laws criminalizing “private homosexual conduct.” They adopted a national strategy to advocate for gay rights, planned demonstrations and set up a legal-defense fund.

The conference proved crucial, and so it was highlighted inside the Missouri Capitol earlier this week as part of a history exhibit about Kansas City’s “surprisingly pivotal role in helping to launch America’s gay rights movement.” It was supposed to be displayed until the end of the year.

But days later, state officials removed the exhibit after several people complained, including at least one legislative staffer who said it was “pushing the LGBT agenda.”

State Sen. Greg Razer, a Democrat and the only openly gay lawmaker in the Missouri Senate, wrote on Twitter that the exhibit was up for four days. He also said there was nothing controversial about a history exhibit explaining how the LGBT community fought persecution and demanded equal rights.

“I am extremely disappointed and angry that Missouri State Parks would bend to pressure from those who want to see people like me stripped of our rights and our dignity as American citizens,” Razer wrote. ” … This is nothing but ‘cancel culture’ coming from those who want the LGBT community to simply disappear into the shadows again.”

The Department of Natural Resources, which runs the parks system that oversees the museum, confirmed to the Kansas City Star that the exhibit had been removed from the Missouri State Museum. The museum is located on the Capitol building’s first floor. The department did not say why or who had made the decision.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Parson (R) said in a statement that the department removed it because the process for setting up temporary exhibits in the Capitol had not been followed.

Razer called that “a convenient excuse” and said he thinks the real reason is that Republican lawmakers and their staffers complained. Uriah Stark, who works as a legislative assistant for Republican state Rep. Mitch Boggs, published a Facebook post Tuesday that included 12 photos of the exhibit. He was not a fan.

“So is there any good reason that our taxpayer funded museum is pushing the LGBT agenda in our state capitol? These are literally in-your-face banners that you can’t walk through the museum without seeing,” he wrote in the post, in which he called out both the state museum and Department of Natural Resources.

On Wednesday, Stark followed up with an update on the “pro LGBT ‘history’ exhibit.” It had been removed.

“To God be the glory!” Stark wrote, adding that he had spoken with multiple elected officials who had been “ready and willing to take action” if the exhibit had stayed. ” … Thank you all for standing for traditional family values!”

The Department of Natural Resources, Parson’s office, Stark and Razer did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post.

Razer, the Democratic state senator, said the people who work with him know he’s more than just the “gay Senator” but that he would “fight like hell” against people who attack the LGBT community and use the state government to “erase us.”

“I can’t believe [Missouri State Parks] acquiesced to such small-minded bigotry. I expected more of a backbone,” he wrote.