A St. Paul City Council member who posted anti-gay comments on his Facebook page several years before he took office responded to calls for a public apology with a statement asking for "understanding and compassion" of his religious beliefs.
Kassim Busuri, who represents the city's Sixth Ward as an interim council member, said in a news release Sunday he believes "there is a fracture within the Muslim community and the LGBTQ community" and that "condemning someone for past comments is not the answer."
"As more members of the Somali community become active in the Democratic Party and process, a level of understanding and compassion should be reached for those who fully practice Islam," he said. "Equally, there should be a level of understanding and compassion to be reached for those from the LGBTQ community."
Busuri, who is Muslim, is St. Paul's only Somali council member. He said in an interview Monday that he hadn't received any response to his Sunday statement and hasn't decided whether he will issue an apology.
"Those are statements that I made when I was younger," he said. "I don't think the issue is my comments — the issue is more about my beliefs, and some of that is reflected through my previous posts."
On Monday, Samuel Doten, Stonewall DFL chairman, criticized Busuri's refusal to apologize: "The people really losing out are the constituents in the Sixth Ward, most particularly LGBTQ Muslims. ... There's no apology or even an acknowledgement of pain or frustration or hurt."
The comments that Busuri posted on his Facebook page in 2013, 2014 and 2015 came to light last week, after he was absent for a council vote Wednesday on a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and June 2019 Pride month.
Busuri was the only council member not listed as a resolution sponsor.
Tyler Blackmon, a Minnesota DFL party staffer who read the resolution with Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson before the council vote, later tweeted screenshots of Busuri's posts.
In them, Busuri made supportive comments about a CEO's anti-gay remarks and a Ugandan law that criminalizes homosexuality. A third post commented on another man's appearance, saying "no homo but he looked great."
Busuri issued a statement after the release of his Facebook posts, acknowledging that he did not support the council resolution but believes "in the dignity of all human beings and that no-one should be persecuted for their faith, values, beliefs or who they are."
"Ask yourself what kind of leader do you believe our community should have? One who wraps themselves in a rainbow flag, a person-of-color flag, or whatever the flag-of-the-day is for political gain or one who acts in the best interest of humanity and is willing to give of their life for another," he wrote.
In a joint statement Thursday, Stonewall DFL, Minnesota Young DFL and the LGBTQ and youth caucuses of the Minnesota DFL said they were "shocked and insulted" by Busuri's response and called on him to apologize and resign.
At the St. Paul DFL city convention on Sunday, Doten and Nelson both addressed the crowd.
Though they did not mention Busuri by name, they made a point of noting the diversity within the LGBT community.
Nelson, who identifies as queer and bisexual and whose family is Muslim, said the float ahead of her as she marched in the Pride parade earlier in the day "had a giant banner that said 'Queer Muslims exist.' "
"There is a huge diversity within our LGBTQ community," she said. "It spans all faiths, genders, races, ethnicities, ages, expressions and everything."
Nelson and other council members called for Busuri's resignation last month, after he launched a City Council campaign despite pledging not to during his interview for the interim Sixth Ward seat.
Busuri, who filled the council spot vacated by longtime Council Member Dan Bostrom, has said repeatedly that he will not resign.