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The Enemies of Progressive Change Within

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There he goes again. For those of us brave enough to challenge the status quo, one Richard Socarides keeps popping up to scare us, while promoting his own self-interest. As some of you know, Socarides worked in the Clinton White House as special assistant; in 1996 he wrote talking points that the president and his team used when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Instead of resigning in protest, Socarides chose to continue garnering favor with a sitting president at the expense of the LGBTQ community.

Socarides is back at it. Last month, he released a statement condemning out lesbian gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon for appearing on nominating petitions with an African-American candidate for lieutenant governor, Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn city councilmember.

Socarides wrote, “It’s shocking to me that especially after all we’ve been through a year and a half with Donald Trump and with Pride Month, an openly gay candidate would align herself with someone whose personal views are at odds with the state of New York.”

For Socarides to accuse Cynthia Nixon of selling-out the LGBTQ community is hypocrisy of the highest order. It’s also hypocritical for someone with Socarides’ politics to carry on like he’s leading the Resistance movement against Donald Trump.

It’s true that Jumaane Williams, in the past, expressed reservations about marriage equality. But then so did one of Socarides’ chief patrons, Hillary Clinton. Like Hillary, Jumaane has evolved politically as a compassionate human being to embrace full rights for the LGBTQ community. Many, many other New York Democrats traveled down the same road.

Williams is a respected councilmember and one of our city’s most vociferous fighters for racial equality and reform of the criminal justice system.

Recently I had a meeting with Jumaane, and had numerous conversations thereafter, and have the sincere belief that his positions are unequivocally for LGBTQ rights and for a woman’s right to choose. Jumaane’s record in the City Council proves that to be the case — in spite of a foolish and unnecessary abstention on an important bill pertaining to the transgender community, for which he later apologized.

Here are the facts about Jumaane’s record on LGBTQ equality and other progressive causes: On the floor of the City Council, Williams praised the 2015 Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality. As a councilmember, he co-sponsored gender-neutral bathroom legislation, and as chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, he helped shepherd the bill to passage. Jumaane has also co-sponsored legislation with Councilmember Carlos Menchaca urging the State Legislature to bar the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution arrests — a practice police officers often use to harass transgender women and LGBTQ youth. He has also spoken out in favor of Planned Parenthood, posed for pictures in support of the group, and taken an unequivocally pro stance on abortion rights.

The bridges formed between the white LGBTQ community and people of color can only be hurt by the tactics currently being employed by overeager and tone-deaf surrogates for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign. It’s worth noting that Socarides was once a leading critic of Barack Obama, not only when he was running against Clinton in 2008 but during his presidency, as well.

For years, I have questioned former State Senator Tom Duane about his friendship with anti-abortion and anti-gay Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr., now a city councilmember, and Duane’s answer about his former Senate colleague — and antagonist — invariably has been that the good reverend “cares about the poor.” How then to explain Diaz’s failure to support Fair Fares for approximately 800,000 low income New Yorkers? The new program will provide half price transit to low income New Yorkers. Last time I checked, only Steve Matteo and Joe Borelli, two Trump-loving Staten Island Republicans, joined Diaz in withholding their support. What a champion of the poor.

Tom Connor, the 86-year-old gay man who was threatened by a fellow member of Manhattan’s Community Board 2, which includes the Village, the home of Stonewall, has finally been reinstated by chair Teri Cude to an influential committee dealing with liquor licenses. Despite criticism from Councilmember Margaret Chin over Connor’s being threatened and then removed from the committee, Borough President Gale Brewer had no issue reappointing Cude. Can you imagine Brewer behaving in such a manner if it were a woman who reported being threatened by a man and there were six witnesses?

Speaking of CB2, according to a recent study, it turns out that the board shoots down more than 25 percent of liquor license applications. That’s compared to only four percent in neighboring CB4, which covers Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. In response to the negative press, Cude has formed a phony-baloney committee to explore economic development within the board’s boundaries. Perhaps this committee’s first action will be to stop forcing small business owners to agree to ridiculous stipulations that force them to close at 11 p.m. But just between you and me, I’m not holding my breath, folks.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of NIMBY crusader and longtime nightlife hater Susan Stetzer, the CB3 district manager, to the newly constituted Nightlife Advisory Board. Picking Stetzer to a committee charged with helping rescue the city’s nightlife industry is a travesty. Her appointment came at the insistence of Borough President Brewer, who has a long history of opposing nightlife in Manhattan in what were once districts friendly to gay venues. As beep, Brewer has abetted their demise through ghastly community board picks and constant letters to the State Liquor Authority opposing license applications or demanding stipulations making it prohibitive for venues to open. The result is that discos have largely disappeared from the heart of New York’s once-fabled nightscape.

Next column: Not all is good for us with the Bronx Democratic leadership.

Updated 3:43 pm, July 25, 2018
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