Gay Republicans set to join city council and state Supreme Court
Concluding an election cycle in which most of the other LGBTQ candidates were from the Democratic Party, two gay Republicans emerged victorious on Staten Island: one of them is a new city council member who worked for anti-lawmakers. LGBTQ and the other soon to be … future state Supreme Court justice who voted against transgender rights legislation as state legislator.
Gay city council candidate David Carr defeated Democrat Sal Albanese in a lopsided general election race to succeed Steven Matteo in Mid-Island’s 50the District, as gay Civil Court Judge Ronald Castorina, Jr., won his competition to become a New York Supreme Court judge in the 13e Judicial Quarter. Carr and Castorina are the first LGBTQ people on Staten Island to win city council or state Supreme Court elections, respectively.
Prior to becoming a judge in the civil court, Castorina – formerly president of the Republican Party of Staten Island – worked in private practice, served as a Republican commissioner for the city’s Election Council, and represented Staten Island District 62 in the Assembly of the state. As a member of the Assembly, he voted against the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which was finally passed in 2019 and added gender identity and expression as a protected class in state human rights and hate crime laws.
Castorina voted in favor of other LGBTQ measures, including a ban on conversion therapy in 2017 and a trans-inclusive bill requiring single-occupancy toilets in state-owned buildings to be designated as neutral in gender matter.
In an email and subsequent telephone interview with Gay City News, Castorina said he was unable to “talk about politics or past votes in any way … as much as I would like,” citing the need to maintain impartiality as a judge – but he nevertheless touched on his approach to voting.
âSuffice to say that I represented one of the most conservative and Republican Assembly districts in the state, and my votes represented the values ââand opinions of the community,â said Castorina, who made the headlines. newspapers during his time in Albany when he referred to abortion as an âAfrican-American genocideâ in response to our lesbian Assembly member Deborah Glick’s 2016 effort to codify Roe v. Wade.
Speaking of his rise to the state Supreme Court, Carr noted that he hopes closed LGBTQ conservatives look to him “as an example, which they too can reach out to, and not have to give up or change their beliefs “. He expressed his gratitude to LGBTQ people who paved the way for other members of the community, but when asked for specific names, he didn’t mention anyone in particular.
âNot just anyone individually, but coming back to Stonewall and onward, there have been pioneers who paved the way for which I am grateful, and I stand on their shoulders,â Castorina said.
The judge also praised the Staten Island Republican Party for being “a haven” for itself and other “conservative gays” – and said he found lasting friendships and “no-bigotry” acceptance there. .
Contrary to Castorina’s experiences, however, many Republicans on Staten Island continued to be on the wrong side of the fight for LGBTQ rights. Earlier this year, Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis from Staten Island voted against the Equality Act, a long-standing federal LGBTQ non-discrimination bill, and Staten Island council members, Matteo and Joe Borelli, have repeatedly voted against gay rights legislation. In 2016, for example, Matteo and Borelli both rejected a municipal bill requiring individual bathrooms to be designated as gender neutral, and in 2018 they opposed a measure allowing people to put update the gender designation on their birth certificates. Like Castorina, Borelli also voted against GENDA when he was in the National Assembly.
In fact, Carr – who will be the only Republican to join city council – is no stranger to these lawmakers. He is Matteo’s chief of staff and previously held the same position for Borelli when he was a member of the State Assembly.
Carr’s political platform is largely in line with that of many other members of his party. Posing as a âlaw and order Republican,â Carr has voiced his opposition to vaccination warrants and ânon-citizen voting,â campaigned with Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa and was backed by politicians like Borelli and GOP Assembly member Michael Reilly – a former cop who strongly opposed a legislative effort to end a discriminatory vagrancy law commonly referred to as the ‘walking trans’ ban because of the way it was used to target transgender women of color.
Carr captured the general election victory after securing a victory in a much tighter GOP primary competition earlier this year when he won by just 44 votes in a ranked-choice format. He followed Republican Marko Kepi after the first round of the standings votes, but closed the gap in subsequent rounds to secure a narrow victory.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of LGBTQ Republicans who found themselves embroiled in internal strife during Trump’s day, backed Carr and campaigned for him to bolster his candidacy ahead of the election.
In an interview with the Staten Island Advance, Carr downplayed the importance of becoming her borough’s first municipal lawmaker.
“I’m proud of who I am, but being among the first gay Republicans elected to public office in New York State is only good if it brings us closer to the day when identity politics do. ‘matters more and where the focus is on where it should be, which is how well a candidate will do the job of serving their community, âhe said. Carr told the Staten Island Advance.
Carr joins six other members of the new city council – Erik Bottcher and Kristin Richardson Jordan of Manhattan; Crystal Hudson and Chi OssÃ© from Brooklyn; and Lynn Schulman and Tiffany CabÃ¡n of Queens – leaving the Bronx as the only borough without LGBTQ representation on city council.
Carr did not respond to Gay City News’ request for comment for this story.