New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) has named at least two pastors with a history of anti-LGBTQ statements to top posts in his administration, and seems determined to name a third anti-LGBTQ pastor to another position, although the latter’s first nomination had to be withdrawn due to backlash over his praise for the Ugandan government’s crackdown on homosexuality.
Adams has named the Rev. Erick Salgado, an evangelical pastor from southern Brooklyn, as assistant commissioner in the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, according to the New York Daily News.
Salgado has long espoused anti-LGBTQ views, including criticizing “mortal sins” like abortion and homosexuality, during a 2013 run for mayor.
That year, he was endorsed by the National Organization for Marriage, which fights to make same-sex nuptials illegal. Two years prior, Salgado organized a march in the Bronx to protest the pending passage of New York’s marriage equality law.
In 2013, Salgado blasted the city’s Parks Department for erecting statues in the Sheepshead Bay Holocaust Memorial Park in honor of non-Jewish victims of the Nazis, including homosexuals and political prisoners. He claimed in a press release that it was inappropriate to build “controversial” statues, calling them “a betrayal of the community and even worse, disrespectful to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.”
“I am proud to serve in this administration under the leadership of Mayor Adams and share his long-held values of tolerance and inclusion,” Salgado said in a written statement put out by the mayor’s press office. “My views have evolved as society has evolved. As MOIA assistant commissioner, my mission will be to lift up immigrant communities across our city, including LGBTQ+ immigrants, who often face barriers to accessing needed services.”
Adams also seems intent on naming former Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D), a pastor from the Bronx, to some position in city government.
Initially, he had floated Cabrera’s name to lead the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health, the city’s top mental health agency, which has an annual budget of more than $300 million. But he was forced to withdraw Cabrera’s name after backlash from LGBTQ activists.
Chief among critics’ objections to Cabrera were comments he made in 2014 when he traveled to Uganda and praised its government for not caving to U.S. economic pressure and repealing its bans on same-sex marriage and abortion — consistent with their (and ostensibly, Cabrera’s) view that Christians should “take their rightful place” in government and use the law to promote their religious views.
“The United States of America has put pressure. It has told Uganda, ‘We are not going to fund you anymore unless you allow gay marriage,’ and they have stood in their place. Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation. Abortions are illegal here — things that Christians really stand for. Why? Because the Christians here took the opportunity to take their rightful place,” he said in a video posted to YouTube by journalist Andres Duque.
At the time, Uganda’s government had passed a law making not just same-sex marriage, but any form of consensual same-sex relations, illegal and punishable by life in prison.
The bill was dubbed the “Kill the Gays” bill because it had initially contained a clause that would have made those convicted of homosexuality eligible for the death penalty.
Critics also questioned how Cabrera, who has previously referred to homosexuality as a “mental illness,” could run the city’s top mental health office, and questioned whether he might put in place policies that are hostile to or even refuse to assist LGBTQ people in need of mental health resources.
According to Politico, LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness and seek mental health services from the city, thereby placing Cabrera’s stated views at odds with the alleged mission of the agency he’d have been tasked with running.
But according to the Daily News, Adams has not conceded defeat, telling aides close to him that he intends to tap Cabrera for a “faith-based” position.
Some political observers believe that may be a reference to the recently launched Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnership, which was created to foster working relationships between the city, nonprofit organizations, and faith-based organizations.
The man named to head that office, Pastor Gilford Monrose, has his own history of anti-LGBTQ views and statements, according to Gay City News.
Cabrera’s inclusion in city government — along with the already confirmed appointments of Salgado and Monrose — have led some activists to fear that an Adams administration will normalize anti-LGBTQ sentiment within the city’s Democratic Party by rewarding people with anti-LGBTQ views with plum positions — or at least making it politically survivable for them to gain power and potentially use their power to push through anti-LGBTQ policies.
New York City Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan (D-Manhattan), a member of the City Council’s LGBT Caucus, told Gay City News that Adams “has no business hiring a known bigot to influence the politics of New York City, especially when his harmful ‘faith based’ beliefs threaten to roll back the progression we have made in our city to the LGBT community, including same-sex marriage and protections against discrimination.”
“A truly faith-based belief system requires humanity and love for all,” Richardson Jordan said.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), reportedly said during a meeting with Adams that Cabrera “is a bigot and has no place in City Hall,” to which the mayor allegedly responded, “We can agree to disagree.”
Allen Roskoff, an LGBTQ rights activist and co-founder of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, told the Daily News that placing Cabrera in a “faith-based position” is “equally as unacceptable as him running the mental health office.”
“How is he going to deal with LGBTQ people of faith? How is he going to deal with a gay synagogue? How is he going to deal with gay Catholics?” Roskoff said. “What is this mayor thinking? Has he no consideration for us? It’s a big FU to the LGBTQ community.”
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