Their silence speaks louder than words.
The city Council voted overwhelmingly last week to ban the scientifically discredited practice of trying to “cure” someone’s homosexuality — through what’s often called gay conversion therapy or reparative therapy — but a pair of Brooklyn pols were the only two to vote against the ban, signifying their support for the controversial practice.
Councilman David Greenfield (D–Midwood) and Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) voted “nay” on the legislation on Dec. 1, while Councilman Andy King (D–Bronx) abstained for what he said were religious reasons.
The bill is now on Mayor DeBlasio’s desk, and 120 days after Hizzoner is expected to sign it, centers or individuals in the five boroughs that offer such so-called therapy will have to cough up thousands of dollars in fines if caught.
But Greenfield, who is set to leave office at the end of the year before the law actually takes effect, told amNewYork he voted against the bill because he worried how outlawing the practice would impact some people in his district who are “having this conversation,” especially those in the Orthodox Jewish communities he represents.
“It’s not clear to me what kind of impact it will have on those folks,” Greenfield told amNewYork. “I think we should be respectful, specifically, of people who are making personal religious choices.”
Greenfield’s office declined to comment further when this paper reached out to ask if the outgoing legislator would do anything to ensure that the people who he says are having these “conversations” will comply with the law, or what his vote says to the LGBTIQ community, especially youngsters, in his district, who risk depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, or even suicide, if pressured into such a practice.
Deutsch also voted against the bill, but refused to explain his reasoning — he did not respond to six e-mails, three text messages, or four phone calls since Dec. 1 seeking comment.
But the newly re-elected councilman’s silence didn’t stop his own constituents from questioning his reasoning out of him online, and bashing him for his vote. Russian-born Midwood resident Lyosha Gorshkov, co-president of RUSA LGBT — a U.S.-based network of Russian-speaking LGBTQ immigrants and their allies — and who identifies as queer, said he’s fed up with Deutsch ignoring the LGBTIQ community and seemingly considering them to be sick, second-class citizens.
“He is sticking to a particular orthodox population, ignoring diversity of the district. It made me furious because conversion therapy is, by default, an anti-human, anti-scientific, and discriminatory practice that has caused a lot of harm and damage to the people who were forced into it,” said Gorshkov in an e-mail. “It has to be banned indefinitely. And do not forget that this practice often leads teenagers to suicide, and this is what CM Deutsch and Greenfield must think about, rather than pretending that they are trying to ‘protect our children.’ ”
And Gorshkov, who also founded the country’s first-ever Russian-speaking pride march in Deutsch’s district in Brighton Beach, said this vote just more clearly speaks to his lack of respect for the LGBTIQ community since Deutsch actually won’t say anything at all — he never made it to the May march, and never even returned the invitation, said Gorshkov.
“I had invited CM Deutsch to attend the first one, but I haven’t heard anything from him or his office, which is significant, and speaks about his real intentions,” Gorshkov said. “I am urging him that he has to see out of the box, and acknowledge that there are a lot of LGBTIQ people in his district, we are his neighbors, his cashiers, his barbers, his doctors, his teachers, etc. and we are still get attacked, verbally abused, beaten up, discriminated in a workplace on a daily basis. If he is not going to listen to us, we have to act and react.”
Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook), an openly gay city legislator and sponsor on the bill, declined to comment about his Brooklyn colleagues’ votes.
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Longtime staffer for state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and former Republican Council candidate John Quaglione, who narrowly lost to Councilman-elect Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) last month, spent a large chunk of his campaign cash at his boss’s family-owned neighborhood catering hall, city records show, as first reported by Times Union.
Quaglione, who has worked for Golden for nearly two decades, cut $18,321 in checks from his campaign coffers — taxpayer-funded through the city’s matching funds program, which matches small contributions from city residents at a $6-to-$1 rate — to the Bay Ridge Manor for four different election events since May, according to city campaign records.
Golden no longer owns the venue, which he sold to his brother when he took office in the state Senate in 2002, but he remains the landlord and rakes in a management fee, according to the Times Union.
Golden has also written campaign checks to his own family-run venue, according to the Times Union, but there’s nothing illegal about it, according to the state’s campaign finance laws.
And it’s not the first time his spending has raised eyebrows — the feds investigated Golden’s use of campaign cash back in 2014 for the same reason, after he spent more than $500,000 on functions at the manor since 2002.
Golden didn’t violate any laws, but it just speaks to his disregard for ethics and apathetic attitude towards improving the state campaign system by closing loopholes, said Bay Ridge journalist Ross Barkan, who is challenging the longtime Albany legislator next year.
“Marty Golden isn’t breaking the law because the law itself is broken and Marty has no interest in changing the law, that’s really the problem,” said Barkan.
Barkan’s Democratic primary competitor, Bay Ridge Democrats member Andrew Gounardes, also had no kind words for the state senator, charging that Golden should focus his time and energy on things that actually matter to the community, like public transit.
“Marty Golden is the poster child for why people are fed up with politicians today. Elected officials should not be allowed to personally profit from taxpayer dollars — or their own campaign funds. Period. End of story,” said Gounardes. “Instead of lining his pockets with public funds, Golden should focus on fixing our crumbling subways.”
The city’s own campaign finance laws are known to be much stricter than the state’s, but a spokesman for the city’s Campaign Finance Board declined to comment on whether Quaglione broke any laws, saying the issue will be considered during the post-election audit that’s done for every campaign.
Neither Quaglione nor Golden returned requests for comment.