A Republican county official in Alabama is standing by homophobic comments he made online, saying this week that “gay people are offensive to me.”
Mobile County Treasurer Phil Benson faced backlash for writing on the Mobile County Republican Party Facebook page: “Freaking queers have gotten too much sympathy. A real abomination."
Benson's comment was in reaction to a news story posted earlier this month about a cake shop owner who was sued for refusing to make a gender transition cake.
His comment was removed by the page administrator, but NBC affiliate WPMI reported that Benson doubled down on his comments in an interview.
“Do you understand, though, how your words can be offensive to gay people or to anybody?” reporter Andrea Ramey asked Benson.
“And gay people are offensive to me. Do you understand that?” he replied.
“All gay people, just because they’re gay, are offensive to you?” Ramey then asked.
“They can be very offensive. All this beautiful rainbow stuff. When one of our presidents lit the White House with wonderful rainbow colors that offended me,” Benson said, noting how former President Obama had the pride flag displayed following the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
Benson faced swift condemnation for his remarks, which came during national Pride month.
Mobile Alabama Pride wrote on Facebook that it was “inappropriate” for an elected official to “voice such hate-orientated opinions.”
“We welcome Mr. Benson, and any other elected official, to attend one of our meetings to express any concerns they may have so that we can, in the interest of goodwill, grant them the opportunity to engage us directly. We seek no test of will nor to force an opinion on Mr. Benson or anyone else who may share the same views,” the group wrote on Tuesday. “We only seek the opportunity to be able to defend ourselves through education and productive dialect so that we may be able to meet some common ground for the benefit of all citizens of Mobile County.”
Benson did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill about whether he would accept the group's invitation to meet.
The 77-year-old treasurer, who will be up for reelection next year, told news site AL.com that his use of the term “queers” comes his upbringing, when it was “common verbiage.”
"So I used some '50s terminology. I'm not even sure what contemporary terminology would be. Would I just say 'homosexuals' or do I have to spell it all out?" he told the news outlet.
Benson said his initial comment stemmed from viewing the cake shop case as a sign of government overreach into private businesses.
“It’s not only the gays, the LBG-ABC whatever,” he said. “All groups have gotten just too strong, too powerful.”
Updated at 2:56 p.m.