Following an explosion of outrage from the LGBTQ community, Mayor Eric Adams backtracked from an apparent plan to hire anti-LGBTQ former Bronx Councilmember Fernando Cabrera to lead the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.
Politico New York reported on February 3 that the mayor was looking to hire Cabrera to fill the role of the rebranded office that was previously known as ThriveNYC under the de Blasio administration. Sally Goldenberg, who wrote the story for Politico alongside Amanda Eisenberg, said in a follow-up Twitter post that three sources told her Cabrera “was absolutely selected” and “already met with employees at the agency he’s been considered for.”
That plan, however, was scrapped after LGBTQ political clubs, out politicians, advocates, and others pointed to Cabrera’s dismal record on queer issues and urged the mayor to reconsider.
“While we don’t typically comment on the appointments process before an official announcement, we want to be clear — the administration is not considering appointing Fernando Cabrera to this critical position,” a spokesperson for the mayor told Gay City News in a written statement.
Cabrera, who was term-limited out of office last year after more than a decade in the City Council, gained notoriety in 2014 when he went to Uganda after the passage of a “Kill the Gays” bill and was caught on video praising that nation’s government for standing up against what he falsely described as threats from the United States to pull funding due to homophobia.
“Even when the United States of America has put pressure, has told Uganda, ‘We are not going to fund you anymore unless you allow gay marriage,’ they have stood in their place,” Cabrera said. “Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation.”
Over the years, Gay City News reported extensively on Cabrera’s anti-LGBTQ actions, from his votes as a councilmember to his ties to anti-LGBTQ organizations.
He voted against a bill in 2014 allowing people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates and subsequently opposed a bill to establish an advisory board to implement that law.
Cabrera also opted against punishing Ruben Diaz, Sr. — also a former Bronx councilmember — for homophobic remarks about then-Speaker Corey Johnson and LGBTQ control of the Council in 2019. The Council responded to Diaz’s actions by dissolving his committee on For-Hire Vehicles, but Cabrera abstained from that vote.
Additionally, Cabrera publicly supported the Alliance Defending Freedom — one of the most anti-LGBTQ legal groups — at demonstrations and speeches, as Gay City News previously reported.
“We need to have a new generation of young people that are going to raise the banner for family values, for those things that have made our nation great and the values Alliance Defending Freedom has been fighting for,” Cabrera once said.
Cabrera’s homophobia, however, is ongoing. He remains listed as the pastor of the church he founded — New Life Outreach International Church — which has a statement of faith on its website stating that marriage is “the exclusive covenantal union of one man and one woman.”
LGBTQ leaders and groups expressed some relief after Adams’ team assured them that Cabrera would not be appointed to the role.
The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, which is one of two citywide LGBTQ political clubs, tweeted, “Thanks to all who spoke up in opposition to his taking on this role & to @ericadamsfornyc for hearing us!”
Equality New York, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy and political group, sent out an email urging the mayor to nix the plan and encouraging people to sign a petition echoing that message. On February 4, the organization sent out another email saying it was “excited” to hear Adams abandoned the plan.
“Within just 12 hours we received hundreds of signatures and dozens of social media posts urging Mayor Adams against appointing Cabrera,” Equality New York said in an email. “Thank you to everyone who took the time to advocate and spread the word. It is because of you that we have this victory.”
The New Pride Agenda, another statewide LGBTQ group, also thanked the mayor for pulling Cabrera’s name from consideration — and the group reminded Adams of comments he made in support of LGBTQ rights as a state senator.
“While it is possible for two individuals with differences of opinions to work together, Mr. Cabrera’s comments are immoral and deeply out of touch with not only the views of New Yorkers, but a majority of Americans,” the organization wrote in a letter to the mayor.
The reversal came after a flood of tweets emerged on the evening of February 3 in response to the news that Cabrera was under consideration.
Christine Quinn, who was the first out LGBTQ City Council speaker in New York City, tweeted, “This is a HORRIBLE/offensive idea! #LGBTQ people — particularly young people — suffer high levels of mental health issues/attempted suicide. Appointing a homophobe the head of Office of Community Mental Health will cost lives & is a slap in the face 2 the LGBTQ community. @NYCMayor.”
Émilia Decaudin, an out trans Democratic District Leader in Queens, also questioned how Cabrera could be considered for a role in the area of mental health.
“How could we trust that the Office would properly prioritize mental health needs in the queer community if Cabrera is leading it?” Decaudin asked.
Out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan also added his voice to the conversation on Twitter, writing, “As an LGBTQIA elected official, I’d be outraged if the Mayor of New York City — the world capital of tolerance and multiculturalism — appointed an avowed homophobe to any position in city government.
Marti Allen-Cummings, a non-binary former City Council candidate and longtime drag artist in New York City, tweeted, “Considering Cabrera as the head of the Office of Mental Health is a horrible decision the @NYCMayor must not move forward with. Cabrera is a known homophobe. LGBTQ youth suffer higher cases of mental health struggles and attempts at suicide. Mayor Adams do not appoint Cabrera.”
Cabrera’s record also resurfaced during the mayoral race last May when former candidate Shaun Donovan welcomed Cabrera’s cross-endorsement, infuriating the LGBTQ community. Cabrera had listed Adams as his number one candidate and ranked Donovan second in the ranked-choice vote.
The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, and Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn issued a joint statement condemning Donovan for accepting Cabrera’s endorsement at the time.