A local veterans group is cautiously optimistic after their members said the chair of the City Council’s Veterans Committee finally started to express some level of support for LGBTQ vets during a meeting with them on March 27.
Sam Molik, the organization’s director of policy and legislative advocacy, told Gay City News that Brooklyn Councilmember Chaim Deutsch told the group he wanted them to know he views all veterans equally and that he will “look into” the possibility of voting for a potential City Council resolution against President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender service members.
Deutsch also told the organization that he feels his record on LGBTQ issues has been misrepresented, but those present at the meeting said he did not elaborate on that claim. Deutsch did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that statement or other questions about the March 27 meeting.
The latest development comes after Rouse had repeatedly asked Deutsch, a conservative Democrat who has repeatedly voted against LGBTQ rights legislation, to publicly state his support for LGBTQ veterans and to lead on issues facing the community.
Molik also said Deutsch made no mention during the meeting of inappropriate homophobic comments he made to Rouse last year outside of City Council offices when he allegedly said he and his constituents in southern Brooklyn do not support same-sex marriage.
But following the meeting, the NYC Veterans Alliance praised what they described as “progress of him being able to state and clarify support,” and the organization posted on Twitter thanking him for “clarification of your support for equality of ALL veterans including LGBTQ,” which the councilmember retweeted.
Notably, Deutsch still has not written any tweets or made any public statements explicitly supporting LGBTQ veterans. According to those at the meeting, Deutsch also warned that he typically refrains from voting on resolutions relating to national issues because “it becomes a nightmare.” The Council has yet to put forth the resolution, but it was discussed in meetings with the NYC Veterans Alliance on March 25.
Still, Rouse said “we will as an organization hold him to his new statement of support for the equality of all veterans.”
It is not clear whether Deutsch was prompted to change his tone after the NYC Veterans Alliance sent a letter earlier in the month to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson asking him to step in and address Deutsch’s neglect of LGBTQ veterans, his homophobic comments to Rouse, and the hostility he had shown toward the out lesbian commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services, Loree Sutton.
As of March 25, Rouse had not received a response from the speaker. [Editor’s note: After this story was published in print and posted online, Rouse, on the afternoon of March 29, told Gay City News she had received a response from Johnson, which read, in part, “All of our city’s veterans, including LGBTQ veterans, deserve immense gratitude and respect, commensurate with the many sacrifices they have made in service to our country... I take these issues seriously and have referred your letter internally to the appropriate individuals in my office.]