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How the LGBTQ exhibit was removed from the Missouri Capitol

It began with only a few inquiries from state representatives and staffers on Sept. 1. 

“I was hoping you could explain to me the reasoning of having the gay rights banners hung up in the state museum at the Capitol?” Rep. Ann Kelley said in an email that Wednesday morning to Rich Germinder, director of policy and legislative affairs for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). 

“I’m emailing you about a situation in the Missouri State Museum at the State Capitol because the Museum is under DNR,” Uriah Stark, a legislative assistant to Rep. Mitch Boggs, began his inquiry later that day. “The exhibit takes a controversial topic, the LGBT movement, and places it unavoidably in the center of the Missouri State Museum in our Capitol Building. … While history includes all history, I find it offensive that this particular aspect of history is being promoted with a partisan bent, especially in light of many other historical matters that have much more significance to Missouri history and Missourians than this biased exhibit.” 

Stark’s email concluded: “Please look into this and see what can be done about it.” 

A few hours later, Germinder told Stark the LGBTQ history display was “being removed from the Capitol.” 

Emails to and from DNR regarding the display’s removal were provided to The Missouri Times. Aside from Kelley, a member of House GOP leadership who represents Barton, Cedar, Dade, and Jasper counties in the legislature, Reps. Craig Fishel, Patricia Pike, Louis Riggs, and Brian Seitz also inquired about the display. 

Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights display
Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights traveling exhibit was moved to the Lohman Building. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

The 12-panel display, “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” was meant to be in the Capitol from the end of August until December but didn’t even last a week before complaints led to it being moved to the Lohman Building. The traveling exhibit from the University of Missouri-Kansas City details how men and women in Kansas City paved the way for LGBTQ rights in Missouri and across the country. 

The Governor’s Office and a DNR spokesperson blamed protocol on the exhibit’s relocation to a smaller building nestled between the Amtrak station and the Carnahan Memorial Garden. The statement said the governor had not been made aware of the display, and it had not been approved by the Board of Public Buildings. However, it appears other exhibits never got that pre-approval from the board in years past either.

A quick meeting of the Board of Public Buildings was held in the Governor’s Office Monday afternoon, but the LGBTQ exhibit was not discussed. 

In a letter to DNR Director Dru Buntin last week, House Minority Floor Leader Crystal Quade accused the governor and the department of having “fabricated a statutory approval process.” 

“If you stick to your story that the LGBTQ exhibit had to come down because the Board of Public Buildings didn’t approve it, then to be consistent you must immediately remove all exhibits the board hasn’t approved,” Quade said. “Since this is a function the board has never performed, that means stripping the Missouri State Museum bare. Failure to do otherwise would be a tacit admission that you and the governor have caved to homophobia and engaged in content-based discrimination — the very thing your lie was intended to avoid.”

The display has garnered widespread national support — but awareness of its removal was first raised by Sen. Greg Razer. 

“It is in no way offensive or controversial,” Razer previously told The Missouri Times in an interview. “It in no way surprises me that there are members who would take offense to my history. But the story told in that exhibit is the reason I am able to be a senator today. If not for the work of those men and women years ago, we would not be at a point today where I am a respected member of the Missouri state Senate.” 

“There are members who are actively working to dismiss Missouri’s history and the history of my community. It is personally offensive to me,” Razer continued. 

Cameron Gerber contributed to this report.