Two weeks after her candidate in a Bronx State Senate Democratic primary fight went down to defeat, Public Advocate Letitia James met with members of the Stonewall Democratic Club, presumably to begin mending fences over the fact that her man in the race is a fiercely anti-gay pastor who recently traveled to Uganda to laud that nation’s homophobic regime.
James endorsed City Councilmember Fernando Cabrera in his challenge to State Senator Gustavo Rivera, a longtime ally of the LGBT community. Rivera dispatched his opponent on Primary Day, garnering roughly 60 percent of the vote.
Cabrera has been a longtime foe of marriage equality and has an ongoing relationship with the Family Research Council, an organization condemned as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. FRC’s leaders have at one time or another endorsed criminal penalties for homosexual conduct and praised Uganda’s move toward harsh anti-LGBT punitive measures.
As the primary contest entered its final days, a YouTube video Cabrera produced last winter in Uganda surfaced in which he lavishly praised that country’s government leaders as “the righteous,” resisting the efforts of “cultural shifters” — a group in which he erroneously included the US government — trying to force gay marriage on the African nation. Citing other “cultural shifters” throughout history — including Communists, Nazis, and the North Korean government — he said, “We are in the middle of a war. A war for our children.”
Uganda recently enacted a harshly anti-gay law, imposing penalties even on those who fail to report homosexual conduct they are aware of, but the courts rejected it on procedural grounds. It supporters have vowed to reintroduce the bill and the nation’s attorney general has appealed the court’s decision.
When the video surfaced, LGBT advocates, including the City Council’s out lesbian and gay members, called on James and others to withdraw their endorsements, but the public advocate declined to do so. Instead, she issued a release saying, “Fernando Cabrera has worked with the public advocate on economic justice issues throughout the Bronx. The public advocate does not share his views on LGBT equality issues.”
Several days after the primary, James told the New York Observer, “I endorsed Cabrera on paper. I did not actively campaign, and I distanced myself from him during the campaign.”
Pictures circulated on Twitter, however, show James posing with Cabrera and other supporters of his at an August fundraiser.
Despite the fact that one of the Stonewall members who attended the September 23 kiss-and-make-up session with the public advocate posted a photo of the group and James, the club told Gay City News the gathering was “a closed door meeting.” James’ office did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting.