Shortly after Uganda lawmakers passed a “life in prison” law for homosexuality, and while they debated restoring the death penalty, a Democratic politician and Christian pastor from the Bronx named Fernando Cabrera traveled there and praised them for fighting homosexuality, claiming all government officials must first be servants of the Christian God.
- Cabrera made clear he supports harsh criminal penalties for gay people.
- Cabrera made clear he opposes church/state separation.
- Cabrera made clear religious diversity is not what his God wants.
- Cabrera endorsed dangerously ignorant claims about HIV, directly opposite to reality, claims public health experts say help encourage the spread of HIV. (For more about Cabrera’s dangerous HIV claims, see extra content at the bottom of this article.)
Will Cabrera be bringing his dangerous views to New York City government? That sounds absurd, but it looks like the answer is yes.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams insists on giving Cabrera a job in his administration
Not long ago, the newly elected Democratic mayor proposed making Cabrera, a fellow Democrat and former council member from the Bronx, head of the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health.
LGBTQ activists shouted bloody murder.
Cabrera is on the record promoting the false notion that homosexuality is a mental illness. How could he possibly serve as a leader for NYC’s mental health communities?
What was the mayor thinking?
After several days of withering criticism, Adams withdrew the proposal. But he wasn’t done. He tapped Cabrera to join a new Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnership as a “a conduit between city government, the faith-based community throughout New York City and nonprofit organization[s].”
LGBTQ activists, politicians and Christian leaders are shouting bloody murder again
Allen Roskoff, a longtime gay rights activist and Democratic Party organizer, joined a wide array of Democrats, including many faith leaders, expressing shock, saying that Cabrera serving in a faith-based government post 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? What is this mayor thinking? Has he no consideration for us? It’s a big FU to the LGBTQ community.“
Equality New York asked members “to let Mayor Adams know that we will not accept any anti-LGBTQI individuals anywhere in government here in NYC.”
Councilmember Chi Ossé of Brooklyn, a member of the LGBT Caucus, told Gay City News he strongly opposes any faith-based role for Cabrera: “The Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships offers a powerful opportunity to build bridges between communities and strengthen the bonds of our proudly diverse city. Mr. Cabrera’s history unfortunately demonstrates that he is unfit to fulfill this role.”
Adams isn’t backing down. The implications are frightening.
A source told the Daily News he was in the room when out gay state Sen. Brad Hoylman angrily confronted Adams about Cabrera. The source says the mayor vowed not to change his mind, saying, “This is his administration and that he can do what he wants.”
Is this Democratic Party move LGBTQ people’s worst nightmare coming true?
We’re used to opposition to equality from the Republican Party, especially now with Trumpism dominating and queer people centered in a political bullseye. We know a backlash is happening among conservatives who are trying to roll back progress, especially in the state and local levels.
We know parents are demanding books about us and by us be removed from school curriculums and libraries, often on the flimsiest of pretexts about “sexual content.”
We know queer lives in Red states are becoming more difficult, especially for transgender people. We know queer youth from all stripes of the rainbow are suffering increasing rates of bullying and calling mental health crisis lines like Trevor Project in unprecedented numbers.
The one thing we thought we could count on was Democratic Party support
I’m not claiming the sky is falling. New York City politics are a little odd. A Democratic mayor there isn’t necessarily a mainstream Democrat. Adams’ support of Cabrera could be a one-off, bizarre effect of city politics. Or not.
Adams is a savvy politician.
If he thinks he can ram Cabrera’s appointment through despite organized Democratic opposition — and it looks like he will — then he must believe Democratic voters will ultimately have his back.
That’s the nightmare.
If Adams is right, he might have just normalized homophobia in the Democratic Party.
Cabrera’s positions reveal him to be deeply ignorant with respect to HIV policy, dangerously un-American in his rejection of secular government ideals, anti-Christian in his embrace of harsh punishment for gay people, and entirely unsuited to be a leader in the Democratic Party.
Cabrera’s views line up point by point with those of hardline Trump Republicans.
I don’t know much about Mayor Adams other than that many Democrats in NYC are leery of his conservative politics, but if he insists on appointing a reactionary anti-LGBTQ religious fanatic to his administration, then queer people’s worst nightmares have started to come true.
Will American politics continue to reflect a regressive backlash against acceptance and equality? Will the Democratic Party no longer be welcoming or safe for LGBTQ people?
The jury is out. Stay tuned.
Extra content: Details about Cabrera’s false claims about HIV in Uganda —
Fernando Cabrera is dead wrong about Uganda’s “Christian” government reducing HIV infection rates, which remain among the highest in Africa. In the video where Cabrera praised Uganda’s harsh anti-homosexuality laws, he claimed Ugandan Christian leadership was responsible for a dramatic reduction in HIV cases, saying the reduction happened, “because the righteous are ruling.”
His claim is dangerously counterfactual.
Uganda’s people have suffered from HIV/AIDS at higher rates than people in any other African nation except South Africa. During the period Cabrera was talking about in his speech, HIV infection rates were rising, not falling as he claimed.
Public health authorities like NCBI and WHO cite the Ugandan government’s policies stigmatizing sex work and criminalizing homosexuality as primary driving factors. The full situation is complex, but Pan-African health authorities claim that to this day the Uganda government is not effectively managing the HIV crisis. Infection rates are not falling like they are in most other African nations — like in South Africa where they are now falling dramatically.
The claims Cabrera made in his speech echo claims Ugandan leaders were making then and that they continue to make, frustrating international and Pan-African efforts to contain HIV on the continent.
For details, click this link.
James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, a frequent columnist for the LA Blade, a contributor to other LGBTQ news outlets, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]
The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.