Flint Councilman caught on tape using anti-gay slur

By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

FLINT - Flint City Council President Johnnie Coleman forgot to look for cameras on Sept. 21 when he made remarks that have outraged members of the LGBT community.

According to Triangle Foundation Director of Policy Sean Kosofsky, TV reporters who were in the Flint city building on other business caught Coleman on tape calling a man who was serving him legal papers a "faggot." When confronted by a reporter from WSMH Fox News immediately after the incident, Coleman referred to the reporter as a "faggot" as well. The encounter followed an exchange between Coleman and a citizen during which Coleman told the citizen to "suck my dick." Kosofsky's account of the incident is corroborated by a Sept. 28 report in the Flint Journal.

The LGBT community has been quick to respond. Triangle Foundation has sent out an action alert, asking LGBT individuals and allies to contact Coleman and demand an apology for the remarks.

"It's offensive and insulting for an elected leader to use such language," Kosofsky told the Flint Journal. "It's an embarrassment to the city of Flint when someone does something like this."

In addition, a more artistic response has come from the Lansing theatre company Sunsets with Shakespeare. The theatre company has challenged Coleman to attend a showing of the play "Moral Obligations," which according to the theatre company, "explores a Matthew Shepard-like murder with comparisons [to] the journey of Christ to the cross."

"Since Councilmember Coleman believes calling gay men faggots is an acceptable form of communication, we challenge him to come to see our show, which shows the logical progression of violence such language gives permission to create," said the play's author and Sunsets with Shakespeare Artistic Director Todd A. Heywood. "We will pay for Coleman and a guest of his choosing to attend the evening of theater, and will arrange an opportunity for him to meet with the cast and crew to discuss what the play has meant to them."

"On the other hand," Heywood said, "if he fails to come, he is saying to his constituents and the good people of the state of Michigan that homophobia and the violence incited by it is acceptable. In which case, he is a coward for being unwilling to place himself in a situation to see where his words could lead to murder."

As of the deadline for this article, "We have heard absolutely nothing from Coleman," said Heywood.

According to the Flint Journal report, Coleman is no stranger to anti-gay slurs.

"In 2004, Coleman called Flint Journal columnist Andrew Heller a punk who probably likes to watch 'fag porn' after Heller criticized the council for spending time on an ordinance to ban porn from in-car DVDs."

Coleman did not respond to a request by BTL for comment. Coleman is seeking re-election this November.

Contact Flint City Council President Johnnie Coleman and tell him how you feel about his use of anti-gay slurs. Coleman can be reached by mail at 1102 S. Saginaw Street, Flint, MI, 48502, and by phone at the Flint City Council offices at 810-766-7418. Coleman's email address is jcoleman@cityofflint.com.

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