Metro Weekly

Gay Candidate’s Banner Vandalized with Homophobic Slur

Justice Horn, a community activist and first-time candidate for office, calls the use of the slur "below the belt" and "unfair."

The vandalized campaign banner – Photo: Justice Horn, via Twitter.

A Kansas City community activist who is running for political office had one of his campaign banners defaced with a homophobic slur, before the banner was eventually stolen altogether.

Justice Horn, running for the Democratic nomination for the First District seat in the 12-seat Jackson County Legislature, revealed on Sunday that one of his campaign banners, which had been displayed on a fence in the 4600 block of Campbell Street, was spray-painted with a homophobic slur.

Horn said he had received a call from the daughter of one of his campaign team members about the vandalism. Two people in the neighborhood told him they saw someone spray-painting the sign around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, but could not identify the culprit.

Horn shared pictures of the vandalism on social media, tweeting: “Today I learned that my campaign banner was defaced with a homophobic slur here in Kansas City. I’ll admit, this one hurt because like so many us of who experience this, this word is used to harm us. Either way, I’m not going to back down and I’m going to hold my head high.”

Horn announced plans to hold a news conference in front of the defaced sign on Tuesday. But by Tuesday, the banner had been stolen, with only the zip ties used to hold it up left behind, reports The Kansas City Star.

He hasn’t yet filed a police report yet, but plans to talk with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and report the incident to the FBI as a hate crime.

“I don’t know how much more blatantly that this was a hate crime,” Horn told The Star in an interview on Monday. “It was specifically targeted at me because of my sexual orientation.

“What bothers me the most is that it happened in broad daylight. They were so emboldened to do this,” he said. “It was specifically a defacing to attack me not based on my policy or my candidacy but on me personally. It was the same as calling me the N-word. It’s below the belt and it’s unfair.”

Horn said the initial vandalism was “a big eye-opener to what it’s like running openly as a queer person,” noting that there will always be pushback from people hostile to the LGBTQ community or unwilling to bend when it comes to their views on homosexuality.

“This stuff is hard and we’re gonna face pushback from folks who don’t change,” he said.

Horn, a first-time candidate, has been an outspoken supporter of various progressive causes. In 2020, he helped organize demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. He has also been credited with lobbying the Kansas City Council to create the city’s first LGBTQ+ Commission.

Horn is currently running in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination in the county’s First District, and, if he wins the primary on Aug. 2, will face off against Republican Christina McDonough Hunt in the general election.

If elected, he would become the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the Jackson County government, the only openly LGBTQ county official in Missouri, and the first Black representative of the First District, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, an organization that seeks to elect LGBTQ people to public office.

LGBTQ Victory Fund denounced the vandalism in a statement.

“Recent anti-LGBTQ attacks from officials serving at the highest levels of government empower bigots across the country to espouse hate openly. The reality is that out LGBTQ candidates of color bear the brunt of much of this animus,” the group’s president and CEO, Annise Parker, said in a statement.

“We stand firmly with Justice and unequivocally condemn this homophobic attack,” Parker added. “Hateful acts like this make it abundantly clear that progress is not linear and should never be taken for granted. This is a reminder for the LGBTQ community and our allies that the fight for equality is far from over and that we must enter this election with urgency and strength. The stakes could not be higher.”

At the Tuesday press conference — which occurred despite the banner being stolen — Horn used the opportunity to unveil a policy plan to support members of the LGBTQ community. The plan includes a ban on conversion therapy in Jackson County and protections for reproductive and gender-affirming health care for county employees. It also includes processes for incarcerated people in the county detention center to receive housing assignments based on their gender identity, in order to reduce violence directed at LGBTQ people.

Horn noted that while Kansas City is considered a “safe haven” for the LGBTQ community, incidents like the vandalism show that more needs to be done to protect LGBTQ people.

“It’s time to stop rainbow washing and advocating for LGBTQ+ people just during Pride Month,” Horn said. “And with the extremism at the state level in Missouri, it is way past time for Jackson County to take further steps towards the protecting of the LGBTQ+ community.”

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