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Gay-rights group raises concerns over potential Phoenix council candidate
The director of Equality Arizona, an advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, has released a letter raising concerns over the “anti-gay sentiment” of prospective Phoenix City Council candidate Rev. Warren Stewart Sr.
In the letter, Equality Arizona Director Rebecca Wininger requested an immediate meeting with Stewart to discuss his candidacy for the District 8 seat. She cites a statement Stewart posted on the website of the First Institutional Baptist Church, where he is senior pastor, after President Barack Obama voiced his newfound support for same-sex marriage last May.
“I believe his support of same-sex marriage goes against God’s Word and the laws of nature,” Stewart wrote. “I believe his support of same-sex marriage as the publically-avowed (stet) Christian leader of the free world will mislead and/or confuse tens of millions of people, especially younger generations who know little if anything about God’s Word as a guide to our daily lives.”
Wininger said the group is “deeply concerned” about the candidacy of anyone who has opposed equal rights for the gay community. She cited Stewart’s status as a longtime civil rights leader (he’s credited as the driving force behind the state’s paid holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.).
“It is disturbing to me to have an individual who has fought long and hard for the civil rights of the African-American community to be so quickly dismissive of (the) LGBTQ community who is now fighting for that very same recognition of basic rights,” she wrote.
Stewart did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. His office has said he is still considering whether to run for the council seat.
But several others familiar with the campaign said he will announce his candidacy soon. Many leaders of Phoenix’s southside Black community have agreed that they will support him, and the Black/Brown Coalition of Arizona is expected to vote on his endorsement during a meeting at Stewart’s church next week, according to sources close to the talks.
The pastor is part of a crowded field of potential contenders for the seat. District 8, which is currently represented by termed-out Councilman Michael Johnson, encompasses much of southeast Phoenix. Read more about the race here and here.
Phoenix will hold a primary election for the seat Aug. 27. A runoff election will be held in November if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.