Responding to Franklin Graham, Hoylman Demands Medical Providers’ Human Rights Law Pledge

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
The field hospital established this week by Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse in Central Park’s East Meadow.
Reuters/ Jeenah Moon

In the wake of widespread concern about radical anti-LGBTQ evangelical Franklin Graham’s non-profit, Samaritan’s Purse, running a COVID-19 field hospital in Central Park, out gay Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman is calling on the city to require all medical providers in New York to sign an agreement stipulating they will abide by the city’s Human Rights Law.

Graham, whose group has established a 68-bed tent facility in Central Park’s East Meadow, has called LGBTQ people “immoral” and marriage equality “detestable,” and Samaritan Purse’s statement of faith, which volunteers at the triage facility are being asked to agree to, states, “God created man and woman as unique biological persons made to complete each other. God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.”

And, in a March 29 tweet, Graham called for Christian medical professionals to come forward to help the Central Park effort.

For now, Mayor Bill de Blasio appears to be sidestepping Hoylman’s demand. Asked to comment on the senator’s proposal, City Hall deputy press secretary Julia Arredondo, in an email statement, responded, “Every New Yorker is and will continue to be protected by New York City’s Human Rights Law — one of the most comprehensive in the nation. Any New Yorker can contact the City’s Commission on Human Rights by calling 311.”

In a written statement on April 1, Hoylman, who two days before had called out Graham, stated, “For decades, Franklin Graham has traveled throughout the country preaching a gospel of bigotry and hate… Graham and his volunteers are free to adhere to whatever bigoted beliefs they’d like. But when they come to New York they need to abide by our Human Rights Law, which ensures marginalized New Yorkers are not subject to discrimination. We can’t let a pandemic change New York’s values. New York City must require every doctor or volunteer working at Graham’s Central Park field hospital — along with anyone providing medical services in a place of public accommodation — to sign a statement affirming their commitment to following New York City’s Human Rights Law.”

Hoylman devised the agreement in tandem with out lesbian attorney Roberta Kaplan, whose civil rights work has included representation of the late Edie Windsor in her successful 2013 challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Though both Mount Sinai officials and de Blasio have voiced confidence that the Central Park medical effort would not discriminate and argued that Franklin’s group was best suited to quickly establish the emergency facility, the mayor also said he was “very concerned” about Graham’s history and would monitor the situation.

In response to a call by Gay City News and its sister publications for information from medical professionals battling COVID-19, Mark Barber, writing on behalf of Samaritan’s Purse, forwarded a statement that Graham addressed to Hoylman that said, “I want to respond to concerns you have expressed about the work of Samaritan’s Purse in New York’s Central Park with our Emergency Field Hospital and medical teams. Regardless of my strongly held religious views — or actually because of them — Samaritan’s Purse treats everyone we help the same. We do not make distinctions about an individual’s religion, race, sexual orientation, or economic status. We certainly do not discriminate, and we have a decades-long track record that confirms just that. Our doors at the Emergency Field Hospital in the East Meadow are going to be open to all New Yorkers who need our help.”

The statement, in referring to a “decades-long track record,” did not address the organization’s hiring and volunteer practices or Graham’s vitriolic rhetoric about the LGBTQ community. Nor did it explain Graham’s call for Christian medical personnel to come forward.

Graham, in the statement, chose to characterize human rights principles as a matter of politics, saying, “This is a time for all of us to unite and work together, regardless of our political views.”

While making no mention of Graham or Samaritan’s Purse directly, the New York City Commission on Human Rights’ out lesbian chair, Carmelyn P. Malalis, had on March 31 issued a statement saying, “The full force of our law remains in effect and we must continue to uphold our mandate to protect the human rights of all New Yorkers, perhaps now more than ever.”

Like de Blasio, Malalis urged any victim of discrimination to contact the Commission by dialing 311.

Hoylman encouraged New Yorkers who experience or witness any discrimination in medical service deliver to call the Commission at 718-722-3131 or his own office at 212-633-8052.

On the evening of March 31, out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson released a written statement saying, “Franklin Graham has a long history of spewing anti-LGBTQ hate speech and I find it extremely troubling that he and his organization are involved in our relief efforts in any way. New York City is known around the world for our embrace of diversity and Franklin Graham has spent his career standing against these values. I will be monitoring this situation closely and making sure that our city’s values are being represented at all times.”