"I'm not in the closet and I'm never going back in one. I'm not looking back, I'm only going up."
Michaela Morgan

25 May 2017 - 12:58 PM  UPDATED 25 May 2017 - 12:58 PM

Members of the infamously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church could soon be living under the jurisdiction of an openly gay man.

Restaurant owner Chris Schultz is running for the position of Mayor of Topeka, Kansas—the town where the hate group known for brandishing “God Hates F**s” placards is based.

Schultz announced he would be running for office this week, under the slogan “Renew our community”.

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“Once I saw that we were not the ultimate arbiters of divine truth but flawed human beings, I couldn’t pretend otherwise.”

The entrepreneur runs two restaurants in downtown Topeka and is active in community arts, education and public safety projects.

“Genuine leaders start in the trenches, earning the privilege to lead because of the sacrifices they’ve made,” Schultz said in his announcement.

“If you decide to bestow me with the privilege of being your Mayor, I will continue my mission of using my experience to make good things happen in our community, as your most trusted and loudest voice for a brighter future.

“It would be a great honour to serve you, my friends and neighbours, as your mayor.”

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On his Facebook page, Schultz said he is surprised that his sexuality has been the focus of media coverage.

“My only surprise is that my sexuality has found its way to the spotlight. Does anyone really care about that? Because if you do, I would be happy to discuss it with you. I'm not in the closet and I'm never going back in one.

“I'm not looking back, I'm only going up. Anyone who is willing to work to make our community a better home is a darn good pal in my book.. and welcome to join in no matter what makes them different. Our diversity is what makes us strong.”

Schultz posted a video on National Coming Out Day last year and said he grew up “knowing what it was to be a minority". 

“I was left-handed, red-headed, partially-Jewish and gay. Despite the stereotypes from a life of hiding and shame, my traditional Kansas values wanted me to be with one person for the rest of my life. I just dreamed about Prince Charming instead of Snow White.”

Members of the Topeka community have worked hard to distance themselves from the staunchly homophobic Westboro Baptist Church.

In 2013, LGBT+ activists raised money to purchase the house located across the street from the church and painted it with bright rainbow colours.

Equality House, as it’s known, is painted pink, blue and white each year in honour of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.