Editor’s Note: This story was updated on February 22.
The City Council’s LGBTQ Caucus criticized Mayor Eric Adams on February 21 over his appointment of several individuals with a history of making anti-LGBTQ statements to spots in his administration.
“New York City went to the polls in November to elect a government among the most diverse in history,” the LGBTQ Caucus wrote in a joint statement. “The people have spoken: inclusion, dignity, and justice are clear shared values. Unfortunately, a number of Mayor Adams’ new appointments are steps in the opposite direction.”
The statement further stressed that the city “is home to plenty of qualified potential candidates for these roles.” The members said they would “welcome an opportunity to discuss our concerns and alternative appointments for these roles.”
The rebuke represented a show of unity and bipartisanship, as every member of the Council’s seven-member LGBTQ Caucus — including Republican David Carr of Staten Island — joined the statement calling out the oft-criticized appointments. The other members are Chi Ossé and Crystal Hudson of Brooklyn; Kristin Richardson Jordan and Erik Bottcher of Manhattan; and Lynn Schulman and Tiffany Cabán of Queens. In a statement provided to Gay City News on February 22, the mayor confirmed former Bronx Councilmember Fernando Cabrera’s new role in the administration but did not mention the two other appointees shrouded in controversy.
“Fernando Cabrera has acknowledged the pain that his past comments have caused and has apologized for the words he used,” Adams said. “I heard and accepted his apology. As a man of faith, I have made clear that our administration will serve all New Yorkers equally and fairly. To that end, Fernando will serve as senior advisor in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships. I appreciate the community concerns that have been expressed, and I hope New Yorkers will give Fernando the opportunity to show his commitment to bringing together all New Yorkers, regardless of who they love or how they identify.”
The mayor initially took heat after Politico reported that he planned to appoint Cabrera to lead the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health. Public pressure over Cabrera’s homophobic past prompted the mayor to abandon those plans, but it was subsequently revealed that Cabrera would serve in a different post in the administration, fueling another round of outrage. Cabrera went to Uganda and praised that nation’s anti-LGBTQ government and still serves as lead pastor of New Life Outreach International, a Bronx-based church boasting a homophobic statement of faith.
On the evening of February 21, Cabrera issued an apology on Facebook and claimed he was unaware of the Ugandan government’s actions when he visited in 2014 — even though he referred to that nation’s stance on LGBTQ issues when he recorded a video that year. He also said he voted in favor of bills brought forward by the LGBTQ Caucus during his time in the Council. While he did vote to ban conversion therapy and for a bill requiring the Department of Health to serve the behavioral health needs of LGBTQ people, he also voted against a 2014 bill to allow people to change the gender marker on the birth certificates.
In their joint statement, the LGBTQ Caucus ripped Cabrera, describing him as a “bigot.”
“His appointment to a taxpayer-funded position is an affront to us as individuals and as a caucus, and would be an insult to LGBTQ+ New Yorkers,” the out lawmakers stated.
Gay City News later reported that the person tapped to lead that faith-based office, Pastor Gil Monrose, had previously described homosexuality as a “lifestyle I don’t agree with” and attacked marriage equality and LGBTQ adoption.
The New York Daily News reported that Adams was hiring Reverend Erick Salgado — who mounted a 2013 mayoral bid on an anti-LGBTQ platform — to work in the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Salgado was endorsed by the anti-marriage equality group known as the National Organization for Marriage and published media posts criticizing former Mayor Bill de Blasio for supporting transgender individuals’ right to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity.
“We, the LGBTQ Caucus, stand firmly against these appointments,” the Caucus noted in the statement. “Our democratic government should represent the people, and its officers should be individuals on whom all New Yorkers can rely.”
LGBTQ political leaders and clubs have voiced concerns about the appointments throughout the month, including the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, and the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn. Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who was the first out speaker in the city’s history, told Gay City News the appointments “do not feel like the actions of a friend.”
In a message of support to the LGBTQ Caucus, out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman echoed their statement.
“I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my #LGBTQ colleagues in @NYCCouncil and reiterate what I told @NYCMayor to his face: Bigots have no place in City Hall,” Hoylman wrote in a tweet. “Every day that the mayor stands by these ill-advised appointments undermines the credibility of his administration.”
Among others, out Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas of Queens said in a Twitter post on Feb. 21 that the appointment of “anti-LGBT and anti-choice folks to your administration isn’t moving forward but backward. Rescind the appointments and reconsider the others.”