On August 3, 2021, the Attorney General of New York, Letitia James, issued a Report of Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Harassment by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ('the Report"). The Attorney General's Report reveals damning allegations that Cuomo sexually harassed eleven women. Moreover, Alphonso David, while President of the Human Rights Campaign, was found to be involved in Cuomo’s silencing and shaming of survivors. David is mentioned approximately 40 times in multiple incidents in the Report.
At REAP, we believe survivors. Many of us have experienced sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination firsthand. I myself am a survivor. I have seen power and loyalty used to discredit vulnerable people. As a leader in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, I condemn these abuses of power, even when they are seen in our own movement.
Multiple HRC staff members have called for David’s resignation. I join them in their call for accountability, as accountability is the core of our mission. REAP’s work is focused on holding religious schools responsible for their discrimination against LGBTQ+ students. And REAP is part of a larger movement for queer liberation, a movement which must have a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and abuse.
David should resign or the HRC Boards should terminate his contract. The chair of Time’s Up, Roberta Kaplan, who is also a leader in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and who was similarly implicated, resigned her position today. We cannot give our movement leaders, even those we have an affinity with or sympathy for, a pass on sexual harassment and abuses of power aimed at silencing survivors.
This is a sad time for our movement. It’s never easy to see those we admire implicated in actions we condemn. But we must be consistent in our values to maintain the integrity of our movement. I call upon the leaders of other LGBTQ+ rights organizations to follow our lead and stand with survivors by calling for accountability.
Many of the plaintiffs in REAP's lawsuit challenging anti-LGBTQ discrimination at religious colleges can attest firsthand to the danger and trauma resulting from not holding abusers - and those who enabled them - to account. This statement today is a reflection of the fundamental values that guide our work: to give voice to the oppressed, support survivors and speak against injustice.
Paul Carlos Southwick