Council speaker “looking into” Paladino amid anti-LGBTQ tweets

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Councilmember Vickie Paladino greets Speaker Adrienne Adams on June 13 at City Hall.
New York City Council/William Alatriste

Speaker Adrienne Adams said the City Council is “looking into” taking action against Republican Councilmember Vickie Paladino of Queens following growing outrage over the lawmaker’s anti-LGBTQ Twitter posts regarding the drag story hour program in New York City.

Hours later, the City Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus issued a joint statement on June 16 calling for the Council to remove Paladino from her committee posts and censure her.

Paladino first sparked uproar on June 13 when she published a wild series of tweets denouncing funding for drag story hour and suggesting LGBTQ people are “groomers” — a disturbing term used to falsely associate queer individuals with pedophilia. Paladino warned she would nix funding for drag story hour in her district and threatened to retaliate against schools for funding it.

On June 14, a spokesperson for the speaker initially provided a statement to Gay City News saying the tweets were “deeply problematic” and that the speaker “disassociates” the Council from the posts, but Adams did not, at the time, indicate any plans to take action against Paladino.

Meanwhile, in the following days, Paladino doubled down on Twitter as she defended her position and even “liked” tweets labeling people — including out Councilmember Chi Ossé — as “groomers.” Ossé originally declined to comment when Gay City News asked about Paladino’s tweets, but he subsequently responded to her on Twitter.

“Vickie, if you and your constituents don’t want [drag story hour] in your schools, that’s totally fine! To insinuate that these performers are groomers, during the month of Pride at that, is wildly homophobic and bigoted. No councilmember should be able to spread this kind of hate.”

Paladino’s ongoing Twitter meltdown prompted criticism from several other members of the City Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus as well as out state lawmakers.

The speaker followed up with a lengthy statement on June 16 in which she started off by acknowledging the city’s key role in the history of the LGBTQ rights movement before condemning Paladino’s actions.

“An attack against one New Yorker is an attack against all of us,” Adams said. “In the Council, we take pride in our mutual respect for one another as colleagues, even in the face of disagreements. But a disagreement stemming from a place of hate and intolerance is where we draw the line.”

She added, “I stand with all of my Council colleagues, LGBTQ+ communities, and New Yorkers in unequivocally denouncing Councilmember Paladino’s repugnant views and statements against specific members of the Council and the trans community. A New Yorker’s choice of dress, gender expression, or identity must be not only protected legally, but also against vile, hateful attacks. The Council is looking into what further action may be warranted.”

It is unclear what kind of action is under consideration, but the Council’s LGBTQIA Caucus hopes lawmakers will act swiftly.

“We urge the Council to take immediate action by censuring this member and removing her from her committee assignments,” LGBTQIA+ Caucus Co-Chairs Crystal Hudson and Tiffany Cabán said in a written statement. “This is not an issue of ideological differences, but a question of our collective belief in all New Yorkers’ right to an existence free from discrimination.”

The LGBTQIA+ Caucus further defended drag story hour, describing it as “a wonderful, wholesome, and vital program that invites our children to explore who they really are, to see themselves as unique individuals with the right to be whoever they are in the world.”

In 2019, the City Council — then led by out gay Speaker Corey Johnson — punished Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., for his homophobic comments about the gay community controlling the City Council. Diaz was stripped of his job as chair of the Committee on For-Hire Vehicles and the Council dissolved the committee entirely.

The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, a citywide LGBTQ political club, suggested that the Council take similar action this time around.

“Vile Vickie’s homophobic comments are offensive and have no place in New York City,” the club wrote. “She should apologize to @chiosse, all of her colleagues, and the entire LGBTQ community. Further, @VickieforNYC should be stripped of her committees and censured by @NYCCouncil. Period.”