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Owatonna mayor acknowledges hurt caused by comments about Pride

WCCO digital headlines: Morning of Aug. 11, 2023
WCCO digital headlines: Morning of Aug. 11, 2023 01:20

OWATONNA, Minn. -- A southern Minnesota mayor has issued an apology to his community for comments he made last month about LGBTQ+ Pride events.

Rainbowatonna organizer Nathan Black said previously in an open letter that Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz used his elected position to harass and intimidate people involved in the city's Pride celebration.

Black said Kuntz spoke to pastors at Associated Church about two weeks before the Pride service. He said the mayor asked several "bizarre" questions, including whether there would be stripper poles in the sanctuary.

In a prayer written on social media, Kuntz asked for wisdom in the face of upcoming public events "where sin and brokenness will be celebrated and where sexually explicit acts will be normalized." He did not mention a specific event.

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Initially, Black asked for Kuntz's immediate resignation, but after members of Rainbowatonna met with the mayor, group members asked Kuntz for an apology "that acknowledges the impact of his actions," along with diversity and sensitivity training for the mayor and city staff.

"The subsequent calls for my resignation, the attention in the media, and the statement by our City Council have been challenging for me to experience," Kuntz said in his most recent letter. "However, as I began to hear stories from other individuals, their parents, and supporters about how life has been for them in our beautiful town, I realized that the discomfort I have been experiencing is minor compared to what some of our community members, neighbors, and especially young people, have experienced every day of their lives."

Rainbowatonna and the Alliance for Greater Equity expressed their gratitude to the mayor for his "willingness to listen and learn about the impact of his comments and actions related to the Rainbowatonna Pride events."

Rainbowatonna says it and the Alliance for Greater Equity will work with Kuntz and Owatonna City staff, with the support of third-party mediation and guidance, to develop ongoing conversations, educational experiences and community-building opportunities. 

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