Speaking at a forum sponsored by Orthodox Jewish groups, two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor made no comment after a minor contender in the race said the gay community was trying to ban circumcision.
“We have groups marching from San Francisco and California and they are even marching here every year in the New York gay pride parade, marching over here, trying to ban altogether bris milah,” said Erick Salgado, an Evangelical Christian from Staten Island, at the June 4 forum, which was sponsored by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition and the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush. “This is unacceptable.”
The question concerned religious liberty in New York City and referred to the city’s regulation of a form of circumcision that has the mohel suck the blood from the newly circumcised penis, according to a YouTube clip. That practice, which is controversial even among Orthodox Jews, has led to 13 newborns being infected with herpes in the city and two deaths among those 13. The city now requires parents who use the ritual to sign a consent form.
Salgado has been endorsed by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-same-sex marriage group. He was an organizer of a 2011 march and rally in the Bronx that opposed gay marriage. Salgado has also attacked the inclusion of monuments acknowledging non-Jewish victims of the Nazis, including gay victims, in Brooklyn’s Holocaust Memorial Park.
At his last filing with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, Salgado reported raising just under $206,000 from 373 people. The other candidates have raised several million each. Salgado used a religious liberty argument that is part of the standard right-wing rhetoric.
“We have to defend religious liberty in New York City,” he said. “We’re not against nobody, we just have the right to believe what we believe and live in peace in this city without being persecuted.”
Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller, and Anthony Weiner, the former congressman, spoke immediately after Salgado and neither made any comment about Salgado’s views.
While the reality of New York City politics is that some pro-gay candidates will seek the support of anti-gay groups and individuals, those alliances can anger queer voters and many do ask that candidates publicly reject objectionable views they articulate.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, as a woman and a lesbian, is unlikely to win many votes in the Orthodox community. Thompson has successfully courted those voters in earlier campaigns. Weiner, when in Congress, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, when in the City Council, represented parts of the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.
De Blasio, the city’s public advocate, countered Salgado’s comments, drawing cries of “Shame” and boos from some in the crowd. John Liu, the city’s comptroller, and Quinn applauded de Blasio when those audience reactions began.
“As mayor of New York City, it would be my job to protect the rights and needs of the Orthodox community and protect the rights and needs of the LGBT community,” de Blasio said. “A mayor has to make sure that everyone is included in this city.”
Following de Blasio, Liu praised the city’s diversity, mentioning the LGBT community and the Orthodox Jewish community. Quinn thanked de Blasio for his comments and referred to some recent hate crimes against the queer and Jewish communities.
“We have to be a city where everyone gets to be who they are without ‘Shame’ getting screamed at them in an auditorium or without somebody walking up to them on the street and attacking them, without somebody burning a mezuzah, without somebody, quite frankly, just two weeks ago walking up to a man in my district in Greenwich Village and shooting him in the face and killing him because he was gay,” Quinn said.
“Anthony did not understand Reverend Salgado's remarks,” wrote Barbara Morgan, Weiner’s spokeswoman, in an email. “He did applaud Speaker Quinn’s response because he agreed with it.”
The Thompson campaign promised a response, but never produced one.