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LGBTQ history display removed from Missouri Capitol heading to St. Louis

A traveling LGBTQ history exhibit will be available in St. Louis through early 2022 after its controversial removal from the Missouri Capitol in September.

The 12-panel display, “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” was created by students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). It will circulate between various St. Louis venues beginning with the Cortex Innovation Community’s Civic Lounge in the Innovation Hall building Tuesday.

The exhibit was supposed to be in the Capitol museum from the end of August until December but was removed on Sept. 1 and placed in the smaller Lohman Building near the Jefferson City Amtrak station. Lawmakers and national history advocates spoke out against the display’s removal and implored the executive branch to move it back to the Capitol. 

“By displaying ‘Making History: Kansas City and The Rise of Gay Rights’ in the St. Louis area, we are showing our support for the LGBTQ+ community in Kansas City and throughout Missouri,” said Charlie Brennan, a KMOX radio host who helped organize the push to bring the display to the St. Louis area. “We also see great value in learning the history of Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ community through this exhibit, which is the result of serious academic scholarship at the UMKC.”

The exhibit will be available at the lounge until its move to the Gallery at the District from Dec. 11-Jan. 6. Its next stop will be the Food Hall at City Foundry STL until Feb. 3, with additional locations and dates yet to be announced. 

Numerous businesses, individuals, and organizations banded together to support its display in the St. Louis community, including the Missouri Historical Society, the St. Louis LGBT History Project, and the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). 

“It is essential that we learn from and honor the history and struggles of all peoples, and especially the LGBTQ+ community,” JCRC Executive Director Maharat Rori Picker Neiss said. “As we see from the work of displaying the exhibit, these struggles are far from over, and we all have a part to play in building a brighter, more welcoming future for all people.” 

The exhibit detailed how men and women in Kansas City paved the way for LGBTQ rights in Missouri and across the country, describing how police would raid known restaurants and bars that were known to be friendly to gay and lesbian people, arresting or beating patrons. One panel taught about the early gay rights organizations which helped give people an identity. Another showed how people created places of community when there were none previously. 

The Governor’s Office said the display was removed from the statehouse because it had not been approved by the Board of Public Buildings, and the governor had not been aware of it before receiving several complaints, though other exhibits have reportedly been placed without the board’s approval in the past.