A Connecticut town councilman forced to resign after discovery of his interest in the "furry" subculture was not unfairly discriminated against, the town's mayor says.
New Milford Councilman Scott Chamberlain, a Democrat, resigned Friday after initially defending his role in the community of people interested in animal role play.
"It's nothing to do with sex; it's an interest in cartoon animals," he told the Danbury New Times Thursday, as screenshots circulated of his profile on a furry web forum.
Mayor David Gronbach demanded -- and ultimately received -- his resignation, saying officials should be held to a "higher standard."
Gronbach would not address whether he believes being a furry disqualifies someone from public office, but denied leading the charge to oust Chamberlain because of distaste for the subculture.
The mayor told the Washington Examiner in an email that he objected only to a list of interests that Chamberlain allegedly posted to the forum, on which Chamberlain reportedly indicated he "tolerates" rape.
"The resignation was prompted not from being a member of any community, but the expressions of 'likes' and 'tolerates' that were disclosed," said Gronbach, also a Democrat, in an email. He declined to elaborate, but said "the details have been reported in the Danbury News Times."
The controversial page of Chamberlain's interests was on the website gray-muzzle-sofurry.com, according to a person who responded to reporter questions sent to town government email accounts.
The person, using a Gmail account, did not identify themselves but claimed not to be a local government official. They said their response simply showed "all governments have leaks."
A grainy cellphone screenshot of a list consistent with the local paper's reporting showed the controversial interests.
Dozens of terms including "Vampire," "Pokemon" and "Bikini" — along with "Rape" — were listed in one of four categories: "Loves," "Likes," "Tolerates," and "Hates."
Chamberlain told the New Times the categories were "basically a search feature."
Researchers who study the furry subculture say it's not surprising to see the controversy, which featured a protester at a local meeting Thursday with a sign that said, "No perverts running our town!"
"I would say that this story epitomizes the stigma that members of the furry fandom are routinely forced to confront: Assumptions about their morality or character based on misconceptions about what the furry fandom is," said Courtney Plante, a postdoctoral fellow at Iowa State University who has a PhD in psychology.
"Many furries are forced to conceal their interests for precisely this reason - fear of public outrage or the belief that people will brand them a sexual deviant, criminal, or immoral because of their interests," Plante said in an email. "People immediately make the leap to ‘pervert' whenever they hear about furries without even knowing precisely what one is or based solely on inaccurate media portrayals."
Kathy Gerbasi, a New York-based researcher who works with Plante on the website furscience.com, reviewed the forum on which Chamberlain posted and said it's not immediately clear to her what the interests mean in context.
"Rape is a bad thing, but who knows if that's just a cover story about why they made him resign," she said. "If it's just because the person was a furry, that's ridiculous."
Plante added "we seldom bat an eye at those who regularly watch media featuring deviant sexual behavior (e.g., rape in Game of Thrones) or violence (e.g., fans of violent video games or sports like boxing)."
Chamberlain did not respond to a request for comment on whether he feels unfairly discriminated against, but told the New Times he had been open about his lifestyle and was "just saddened by this whole thing."