In 2014, as Uganda was promulgating a law that made some homosexual behavior punishable by life in prison, a councilman from the Bronx traveled to the country and hailed its “godly” governance.
“Gay marriage is not accepted in this country,” the councilman, Fernando Cabrera, said approvingly, sitting among palm trees in a video posted to YouTube. “Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation. Abortions are illegal here, things that Christians really stand for.”
The video was subsequently removed from YouTube, but not before a gay rights activist and blogger, Andrés Duque, had downloaded it and reposted it online.
Now, eight years after his trip to Uganda, Mr. Cabrera’s embrace of a government that developed anti-gay laws at a time of anti-gay violence and even murder in the country is proving a political liability for Mayor Eric Adams, who recently named him to a position in his administration.
On Thursday afternoon, L.G.B.T.Q. groups are planning to gather on the steps of City Hall to protest Mr. Adams’s decision to name Mr. Cabrera and two other men who have voiced opposition to gay marriage to City Hall posts.
To gay and lesbian leaders, the appointments feel like a betrayal. The appointments also highlight another issue for the mayor — that his repeated controversial personnel decisions threaten to distract from the governance of a city still struggling to emerge from the pandemic amid a rise in violent crime.
Mr. Cabrera, who is no longer a councilman, has been named a senior adviser in the mayor’s newly created Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, where he is set to work alongside Gilford Monrose, a Brooklyn pastor whom Mr. Adams has tapped to run the office and who has also voiced intolerance for homosexuality.
Mr. Adams has appointed Erick Salgado, another pastor who has expressed opposition to gay marriage, as an assistant commissioner for external affairs in the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
In a statement, Mr. Adams described himself as a “man of faith” and said that he had always stood for “tolerance and inclusion.”
And speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Adams argued that “people evolve,” touted his record “fighting on behalf of men and women of the L.G.B.T.Q. community” and said that he was hiring the “best people” for the job.
Asked about leaders who have criticized the appointments, Mr. Adams said he told them, “I respect your thoughts, but I’m going to do what is best for the City of New York.”
On Monday, the City Council’s L.G.B.T.Q. Caucus denounced Mr. Cabrera as a “bigot” and said it opposed the appointments of both Mr. Cabrera and Mr. Salgado.
Mr. Adams’s hiring practices are all the more surprising, his critics say, because he himself voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the New York State Senate twice, even delivering a nine-minute speech in support of it in 2009. His spokesman also noted that when the mayor was Brooklyn borough president, he helped fund a permanent home for the Brooklyn Community Pride Center.
“It’s insane; I don’t understand why a mayor who has a good record on L.G.B.T. issues would appoint two individuals who have horrific records,” said Christine Quinn, who is gay and was formerly the speaker of the New York City Council, referring to Mr. Cabrera and Mr. Salgado. “Not marginal records. Not records that have evolved. Horrific, horrific records.”
Mr. Salgado ran as a long-shot candidate in the 2013 race for mayor and was endorsed by the New York political action committee of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that fought against efforts to legalize gay marriage.
“There are millions of people in New York City who support traditional marriage and deserve to have their voices heard,” the organization’s president, Brian Brown, said at the time. “Rev. Erick Salgado is not only that voice, but is a true leader who has a vision for New York that is based on conservative values.”
In a comment provided by the mayor’s office on Tuesday, Mr. Salgado said, “My views have evolved as society has evolved.”
Mr. Cabrera did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for the mayor noted that on Monday evening, Mr. Cabrera apologized on Facebook for “the undue pain and suffering that my past remarks have caused the LGBTQ+ community.”
Though in the video he explicitly praised the Ugandan government’s opposition to gay marriage and presented himself as well-versed in Ugandan history, in his Facebook statement he claimed ignorance of “the Ugandan government’s historic denial of their LGBTQ+ population’s civil and human rights.”
He pointed to actions he had taken as a councilman that he said demonstrated he is not anti-gay, including allocating funding for “Stonewall Housing and Destiny Tomorrow.”
N.Y.C. Mayor Eric Adams’s New Administration
Schools Chancellor: David Banks. The longtime New York City educator, who rose to prominence after creating a network of public all-boys schools, takes the lead at the nation’s largest public school system as it struggles to emerge from the pandemic.
Police Commissioner: Keechant Sewell. The Nassau County chief of detectives becomes New York City’s first female police commissioner, taking over the nation’s largest police force amid a crisis of trust in American policing and a troubling rise in violence.
Commissioner of Correction Department: Louis Molina. The former N.Y.P.D. officer, who was the chief of the Las Vegas public safety department, is tasked with leading the city’s embattled Correction Department and restoring order at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex.
Chief Counsel: Brendan McGuire. After a stint as a partner in a law firm’s white-collar practice, the former federal prosecutor returns to the public sector to advise the mayor on legal matters involving City Hall, the executive staff and administrative matters.
Transportation Commissioner: Ydanis Rodriguez. The Manhattan council member is a trusted ally of Mr. Adams. Mr. Rodriguez will face major challenges in his new role: In 2021, traffic deaths in the city soared to their highest level since 2013, partly due to speeding and reckless driving.
Health Commissioner: Dr. Ashwin Vasan. Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the current commissioner, stays in the role to provide continuity to the city’s pandemic response. In mid-March, Dr. Vasan, the president of a mental health and public health charity, will take over.
Deputy mayors. Mr. Adams announced five women as deputy mayors, including Lorraine Grillo as his top deputy. Philip Banks III, a former N.Y.P.D. chief who resigned while under federal investigation in 2014, later announced his own appointment as deputy mayor for public safety.
Executive director of mayoral security: Bernard Adams. Amid concerns of nepotism, Mayor Adams’s brother, who is a retired police sergeant, will oversee mayoral security after he was originally named as deputy police commissioner.
The former appears to be a reference to the Stonewall House, a housing development for older L.G.B.T.Q. New Yorkers in Brooklyn. A spokeswoman for one of the development partners did not respond to a request for comment.
“Destiny Tomorrow” appears to be a reference to “Destination Tomorrow,” an L.G.B.T.Q. center in the Bronx, according to Sean Ebony Coleman, the group’s founder and executive director.
Mr. Cabrera did appear to help the center secure $8,000 for its food pantry, Mr. Coleman said. But Mr. Coleman also roundly condemned Mr. Cabrera’s remarks in Uganda and urged the former councilman to apologize to Uganda’s lesbian, gay and transgender community.
“Yeah, it’s wonderful that you advocated to get Destination Tomorrow some funds, but what else are you doing?” Mr. Coleman said.
Mr. Monrose, a pastor at a Brooklyn church, has also expressed opposition to gay marriage and described homosexuality as a lifestyle he does not agree with, according to Gay City News. He referred all requests for comment to City Hall.
Originally, Mr. Adams was considering putting Mr. Cabrera in charge of the city’s mental health initiatives, according to Politico New York. Following the subsequent outcry over the report of the move, the mayor appears to have changed course.
The appointment to a lesser job is unlikely to quell outrage that has been simmering in the L.G.B.T.Q. community for nearly a month.
Cathy Marino-Thomas, the board chair for Equality New York, an advocacy organization, recalls delivering a speech for Mr. Adams at a fund-raiser for him, when he was running for mayor.
She said Mr. Adams’s decision to put two of the three men in the faith partnerships office, which will interface with religious organizations, was especially problematic, because members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community already struggled for recognition among their fellow faith leaders.
She is helping to organize Thursday’s protest against the three appointments and described the selection of the men as a “nightmare.”
“They’re all known homophobes,” Ms. Marino-Thomas said. “It’s obnoxious.”
Michael Rothfeld contributed reporting.