In response to concerns that Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart expressed Wednesday about discrimination against the LGBT community at a new city-funded shelter, the Salvation Army said it doesn’t discriminate based on gender or sexuality and accused the mayoral candidate of pandering to his base.
Ken Perrine, leader of the Spokane-region Salvation Army, said Stuckart’s comments about how the Salvation Army would treat the LGBT community and about requiring a nondiscrimination clause in their contract were insulting and could make people afraid to come to a shelter that will serve them.
“That’s such a ridiculous and stupid thing to say,” Perrine said. “Why would we ever do that?”
Stuckart, who sat on the committee that reviewed the proposals to operate the new shelter, told The Spokesman-Review on Wednesday that he initially had reservations about the Salvation Army operating a proposed shelter on East Sprague Avenue due to concerns about its treatment of the LBGT community and the religious aspect of the organization.
He stood by those comments Thursday.
“I’ve heard complaints about them repeatedly over the years from citizens, and my job is to represent the citizens, so I brought those concerns up in a process and said they needed to be addressed,” Stuckart said.
It was not his intention to insult the Salvation Army or the “great work” it does, Stuckart added.
“I wasn’t saying they’re a bad organization, I wasn’t accusing them of anything,” Stuckart said. “Some people have not felt welcome as LGBTQ members, and whether that’s true or not, I’m still reflective of all of the citizens of this community and what I’ve heard from them.”
Stuckart said he plans to address those concerns in the contract that will be negotiated with the Salvation Army.
“I think it’s insulting that me, as an elected representative by the entire city, is somehow offending them by the reflecting the view of the citizens that I represent,” Stuckart said.
Perrine said Stuckart was “perpetuating a lie that hurts people” and said he was concerned that people with nowhere else to go would be afraid to go to shelters run by the nonprofit.
He said the Salvation Army has contracted with the city before and welcomed everyone, and the only requirements they have for patrons is at their family facility. Anyone staying at the family shelter must have children. He said the nonprofit has repeatedly addressed concerns about discrimination, and they do serve everyone.
“If you’re in need, the Salvation Army is going to help you,” he said.
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