Councilman Fernando Cabrera does not represent what the Bronx stands for today, and does not embody what the Bronx strives to be tomorrow.
For years, Cabrera has spewed anti-gay rhetoric, fought against the advancement of the LGBTQIA community, belittled same-sex marriage, and been a fervent enemy of human rights worldwide. He is, in the perfect words of former council Speaker Christine Quinn, nothing short of a “bigot” who “does not deserve to hold elected office.”
He is, however, running in the June Democratic primary for Bronx borough president.
While there are many instances of Cabrera’s bigotry to choose from, his world view was possibly best exposed in 2014 when he declared support for Uganda’s dehumanizing same-sex marriage ban, saying, “Even when the United States of America has put pressure and has told Uganda, ‘We’re not going to fund you anymore unless you allow gay marriage,’ they have stood in their place. Why? Because … the Christians here took the opportunity to take their rightful place.”
This far-right rhetoric does not mirror Bronx values. Rather, it harkens to the ignorant politics of the ultra-conservative Democrat the Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., who was defeated in last year’s South Bronx congressional contest by Ritchie Torres, the first openly gay Afro-Latino elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
In that election, Bronxites picked a leader based on merits, progressive policies, and the capacity to represent all their constituents fairly — something neither Diaz nor Cabrera has. I believe, come June, Bronx voters will do that again and reject Cabrera’s bid to lead the borough.
Cabrera could have saved himself from this impending defeat by apologizing in 2014 for his homophobic remarks and quietly bowing out of city politics. Instead, following widespread criticism, Cabrera attempted to gaslight Bronxites by staying it was “disturbing” people interpreted his statement as support for Uganda’s same-sex marriage ban, even though we have the video to prove it.
Even more concerning, Cabrera continues to downplay his hateful rhetoric to this day while also lying about his ideologies and surrounding himself with like-minded people to legitimize his views.
Most recently, he accepted an endorsement from the Sergeants Benevolent Association and its notorious president, Ed Mullins.
Mullins has repeatedly used his platform as SBA president to espouse an anti-gay, anti-women, racist agenda. Last May, Mullins — who is white — called then city health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot an expletive for prioritizing personal protective equipment for health care workers over cops at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. A few months later, Mullins called Congressman Torres a “first class whore” for suggesting the city investigate potential misconduct by the New York Police Department.
In February, the Civilian Complaint Review Board recommended three distinct disciplinary charges against Mullins for his comments. Cabrera, who himself is Latino, has not rescinded the endorsement, showing he condones Mullins’ racism and homophobia as long as the SBA continues to support his political ambitions.
It’s the same reason Cabrera continues to affiliate with groups like the Family Research Council and the Alliance for Defending Freedom, both classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as extremist anti-LGBTQIA hate groups.
Cabrera, like Diaz, wants to set the Bronx back a generation. If made borough president, his ideology would dispel younger people — who are categorically more progressive across demographics — from setting up in our borough for the long term. Electing him would be a danger to upholding just, liberal values, and the potential for a strong economic recovery.
Bottom line, Cabrera wants power to push his beliefs. He is not in politics to better the Bronx. He is in politics to better Cabrera.
I am running for Bronx borough president because I want to improve the lives of every Bronxite, especially those who have been historically underserved, like the LGBTQIA community. I will build on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill I co-sponsored and helped pass, which granted civil protections to gender non-conforming individuals who are discriminated against for their identity.
And I will work to expand the capabilities of organizations like Destination Tomorrow, which provides an array of support services to queer Bronxites, like affordable housing.
We need a leader who will make sure the Bronx works for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I believe I am that leader.
The Bronx is ready for its next chapter. Let’s write it together.
The author is an Assemblywoman running for Bronx borough president.