Corey Johnson, New York City’s first openly gay City Council Speaker has unveiled his leadership team and Council committee assignments shocking many Democrats and LGBT activists. Johnson has appointed two anti-LGBT Council members to chair committees, and named one to senior leadership in the 51-member legislative body.
Johnson created a new committee for Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr who has a record of virulent anti-LGBT bigotry and opposition to women’s reproductive freedom and named Council Member Fernando Cabrera, known to hold anti-gay views, to lead the Committee on Governmental Operations and serve as the majority whip on Johnson’s senior leadership team.
Diaz, Sr., is famed as an anti-LGBTQ extremist. In 1994 when he was serving on the Civilian Complaint Review Board, gay activist Daniel Dromm, then co-chair of the Queens Lesbian & Gay Pride Committee, demanded his removal, writing, “Mr. Diaz said that gay men and lesbians are ‘cursed’ and that we fall under the same category with ‘thieves, slanderers, murderers, idolaters, drug addicts, misers, swindlers, and criminals.’ Furthermore, he has condemned the Gay Games and mocked Council Member Tom Duane saying, ‘Does he (Duane) think I would tremble with fear, and run and kneel before this insignificant uncircumcised Philistine?’” Diaz wrote at the time “that the Gay Games, to be held in New York that June, would lead to an increase in AIDS cases and to wider acceptance of homosexuality by young people.”
Diaz also in 2009, he led a rally with the LGBT hate group The National Organization for Marriage and gathered a crowd of 20,000 to protest against same-sex marriage at City Hall. In 2011, he led a similar rally in the Bronx and his lesbian granddaughter Erica Diaz showed up to counter-protest. When Diaz, Sr., said he loved her, Erica said, “You cannot tell someone that you love them and stay silent when people call for their death. ‘Love’ is empty when you say someone’s life isn’t natural.”
Cabrera, the senior pastor at the New Life Outreach International church, has his own history of controversial statements and positions. In 2014, when he was serving his second term on the City Council, he praised the Ugandan government in a video posted online after it passed a law that criminalized homosexuality.
“Godly people are in government,” Cabrera said of the country’s government, noting that gay marriage was not acceptable there and stating that the government had withstood pressure from the U.S. to allow it. “And they have stood in their place. Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation.”
Allen Roskoff, a gay activist and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club was shocked at the news of the appointments “For decades, the gay activist community has fought to keep people like Ruben Diaz Sr. and Fernando Cabrera out of positions of power. I find this shocking and cringeworthy.”
“Of course it’s a big deal,” said an LGBT Democratic insider, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “You have hate emanating from Washington on a daily basis; on the ground in New York City, bias attacks are happening more often; and to put two vocally anti-LGBT people in places where they have a bigger platform is really worrying and not something we want to see in a progressive body.”
Johnson who was once a contributor and eventually the “political director” (snicker) of the LGBT blog Towleroad had this to say after becoming City Council Speaker:
“I’m gonna treat every member of this body with respect…Everyone knows where I stand on LGBT equality. No one can question my credentials on LGBT equality and I’m the Speaker of the Council and we’re going to push the envelope to expand protections for all New Yorkers, transgender New Yorkers, LGBT new Yorkers, undocumented immigrants, Muslims, people of different religious faiths and beliefs,” he said. “That’s where I stand. I don’t agree with every member on everything but I’m still going to work collegially with every member of this body because that is part of my job now as Speaker of this Council.” – Corey Johnson
And that is a prime example of why we never make any real gains in our fight for full LGBT civil rights.