Mayor Eric Adams hired a pastor with a history of homophobic statements to lead a faith-based office and he is still not ruling out the possibility of appointing Fernando Cabrera, an anti-LGBTQ former councilmember, to serve in the administration.
Politico reported February 3 that Adams was initially aiming to hire Cabrera to run the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health, but that fell through following widespread outrage from the LGBTQ community. However, Adams held a meeting with state lawmakers on February 14 during which he revealed that Cabrera might instead be hired in a “faith-based” role, according to the New York Daily News.
A source in the room told the Daily News that Adams — who was confronted about Cabrera by out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan — “basically said that, ‘We can agree to disagree,’ and that this is his administration and that he can do what he wants.”
Hoylman, who would not go on the record about the private conference meeting, described Cabrera as “a bigot” who “has no place inside City Hall,” the Daily News reported.
It is not clear whether Cabrera’s potential role would be in the new Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, which is a part of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit and is intended to connect city government to the faith-based community and non-profit organizations. Pastor Gilford Monrose was hired to spearhead the faith-based office — but he also has a problematic record on LGBTQ issues.
Cabrera famously went to Uganda in 2014 after that nation passed an early version of a measure that was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality. He was caught on a YouTube video praising the government there for its opposition to LGBTQ rights.
Cabrera remains the senior pastor at the New Life Outreach International Church, which only recognizes marriages between men and women and directs the church’s employees and volunteers to adhere to that policy. He is also active in the anti-abortion movement.
As for Monrose, in a 2015 interview in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, he said homosexuality “is a lifestyle that I don’t agree with, but I accept and love all people,” he said, making an analogy to smokers and adulterers. “As Christians, we can never be hateful or dismissive of other individuals.”
Four years prior to that, as New York State was ushering in marriage equality in 2011, Monrose posted on Facebook criticizing queer parents and equal marriage rights.
“Voting ‘no’ to same-sex marriage is not about discrimination or intolerance — it’s about protecting the timeless institution that provides for the raising of our nation’s most important asset: our next generation,” Monrose wrote. “The most ideal place for a child is in the loving care of his or her biological parents, something we should promote.”
One day later, Monrose returned to Facebook yet again to criticize LGBTQ activists.
“Gay rights activists demand uncompromising acceptance,” Monrose wrote. “Catholic Charities in places like Rockford, Illinois and Boston, Massachusetts have been forced to decide between their faith and adoption license because they couldn’t keep both.”
When asked if Monrose would comment — or if the mayor had any comment on Monrose or Cabrera — the mayor’s office did not respond.
Commenting on both Monrose and Cabrera, Hoylman told Gay City News, “I urge the Mayor to consider the message that he sends by appointing anti-LGBTQ officials to his administration, especially the message to our queer youth who are struggling every day with their identities, hateful comments on social media, and homophobia ranging from their homes to their classrooms.”
Former councilmember and LGBT Caucus Chair Daniel Dromm told Gay City News that “we should not be rewarding anyone with an anti-gay history with a job in city government — period.”
“This seriously calls into question Mayor Adams’ support for the LGBTQIA community,” Dromm said. “I sincerely hope every current City Council LGBT Caucus member will oppose this discrimination as we did in the past.”
When asked about Cabrera, out Manhattan Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan, who is a member of the City Council’s LGBT Caucus, said, “Eric Adams has no business hiring a known bigot to influence the politics of New York City, especially when his harmful ‘faith based’ beliefs threaten to roll back the progression we have made in our city to the LGBT community, including same-sex marriage and protections against discrimination. A truly faith based belief system requires humanity and love for all.”
Councilmember Chi Ossé of Brooklyn, another member of the LGBT Caucus, told Gay City News he encouraged the mayor to avoid hiring Cabrera.
“The Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships offers a powerful opportunity to build bridges between communities and strengthen the bonds of our proudly diverse city,” Ossé said. “Mr. Cabrera’s history unfortunately demonstrates that he is unfit to fulfill this role. I have urged Mayor Adams to rescind the appointment.”
Erik Bottcher of Manhattan, who is also part of the Council’s LGBT Caucus, said, “New York is one of the most diverse and inclusive cities in the world and we need candidates for faith-based posts who reflect that. In fact, it should be a guiding principle for all appointments. There’s no shortage of faith leaders who meet that criteria.”
Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, told Gay City News that his LGBTQ club was the first to speak out on the mayor’s consideration of Cabrera.
“We have been talking continuously to people who have relationships with the mayor and letting the mayor know in no uncertain way that this is unacceptable and a great insult to our community,” he said. “The mayor knows through the Jim Owles club that this insult will be remembered as how he decided to start his mayoral relationship with the LGBTQ community. We have been talking to leaders both from within our community and without that this insult must be responded to and with anger and disgust.”
In opposing any appointment for Cabrera, Equality New York, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, called on their members “to let Mayor Adams know that we will not accept any anti-LGBTQI individuals anywhere in government here in NYC.”
Christine Quinn, the city’s first out City Council speaker, said in a tweet on February 16 that the reconsideration of Cabrera “feels like a slap in the face.”
“Does @NYCMayorsOffice think LGBT people should [be] left out of faith-based work?” Quinn wrote. “Why should we be treated unequally?”
Prior to the initial flap over Cabrera, Gay City News inquired about Mayor Adams’ highest-ranking out LGBTQ appointment. The mayor’s office said Patrick Kwan was their liaison to the LGBTQ community, and Stefan Ringel, an out gay senior adviser to Adams who has been with him since his days as Brooklyn Borough President, said Adams made out lesbian Melanie LaRocca his chief efficiency officer and has out gay attorney Bill Heinven in the Mayor’s Counsel’s Office. Ringel said there are also out commissioners who have been held over: Mitchell Katz as head of the Health and Hospitals Corporation and Ana M. Bermúdez at the Department of Probation.