LGBTQ New Yorkers rallied outside City Hall Thursday afternoon calling again for Mayor Eric Adams rescind two appointees to his administration with a long history of homophobic and transphobic stances and statements.
“Mayor Adams has given us the middle finger,” said Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, an LGBTQ political group, who proceeded to flip the bird at City Hall behind the crowd gathered. “I say to Mayor Adams here’s my middle finger.”
The rally follows several days of criticism from LGBTQ advocates and elected allies, calling for Adams to walk back the hirings of former Councilmember Fernando Cabrera who will serve as a senior advisor in the mayor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnership, and of Erick Salgado, who will serve as the assistant commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. They’ve also raised concerns about the appointment of Pastor Gilford Monrose — who Gay City News reported has a history of anti-gay remarks — to head the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnership.
Activists argue the history of these men and their hostile views toward the gay community make them unfit to serve the city.
Cabrera has drawn ire from LGBTQ groups for years following a 2014 visit to Uganda in which he praised the nation for banning abortion and gay marriage. At the time, the country was considering a bill that would have made homosexuality punishable by life in prison. Salgado, a longshot mayoral candidate in 2013, won the endorsement of the anti-same-sex marriage group the National Organization for Marriage and had reportedly organized rallies against gay marriage in 2011.
In a statement following the protest, Adams again stood by the appointments.
“I appreciate and respect the concerns of those who are protesting today and not only hear those concerns, but feel them,” he said. “At the same time, I believe that banishing people who hold views that I personally disagreed with sends the wrong message and in the long run is counterproductive when the real goal is to help people grow and evolve.”
Asked about the controversial appointments Thursday, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said the Council was still upset by the hires.
“We have underscored our concern,” she said. “We understand that people could change, [but] that has to be demonstrated.”
The Council’s LGBTQ Caucus excoriated Adams’ hires in a letter three days earlier. Several members of the caucus joined demonstrators outside City Hall Thursday to call again for their removal. Caucus member Chi Ossé, who represents parts of Brooklyn, called the appointments a “stinking insult.”
“The tax dollars of LGBTQ New Yorkers are about to begin paying the salary of a man who has waged war on our rights and dignity at home and traveled abroad to applaud our imprisonment,” he said, referring to Cabrera.
Trans activist Cecilia Gentili, who immigrated from Argentina, said she was particularly alarmed by Salgado’s appointment to the Office of Immigrant Affairs, which she said would send a terrible message to LGBTQ immigrants, many of whom flee persecution for their sexual orientation and are seeking a better life in New York City.
“This is not acceptable,: she said. “That’s not the New York that I love.”
Cabrera has offered an apology for his past remarks while Salgado said his views had evolved. Monrose declined to comment immediately. And Mayor Adams has said he’s accepted their evolution. But that seemed cold comfort to demonstrators gathered outside City Hall Thursday.
“They haven’t insulted you,” Roskoff said. “The only ones that could accept his apology is us, and we don’t accept it.”