City council nightmare – Crime – New York City council member killed by constituent – Brief Article
How in 2003 could labeling someone gay be so damaging to a political candidate that he would kill over it?
That’s the question that many New Yorkers are grappling with in the wake of the July 24 murder of city councilman James Davis by a gay constituent who wanted his job. Just hours after calling the FBI and claiming that Davis had bribed and threatened to out him, Othniel Askew gunned Davis down in council chambers. City Hall police then shot and killed Askew.
Earlier, Davis had waved Askew through the building’s security and was introducing the ambitious upstart to colleagues as someone who would work with him in his office rather than challenge him on the ballot.
Askew’s FBI complaint made no sense to lawmakers who knew firsthand of Davis’s support for gay and lesbian causes. “He sponsored every bill I ever had; he signed on to every letter on the gay issue across the board,” said out lesbian councilwoman Christie Quinn. “From the transgender civil rights bill to every gay event we did, he was there 100%.”
Councilman David Yassky agreed: “He voted for the transgender fights bill with no difficulty. It was a little surprising for someone who represented a substantial [Orthodox Jewish] community, but he was very forward-thinking, and I think he related to all civil rights struggles.”
Eyebrows were raised in June, however, when Davis took a subtle dig at Askew when asked about him by a Brooklyn political newsletter. “I’ve never heard of him. Or her,” Davis said. Some considered the comment inappropriate, while others said Davis was simply needling his opponent.
Whether the charges Askew made to the FBI on July 24 were real or imagined, there is no room for threats of outing in politics, said the Human Rights Campaign’s David Smith. Someday soon such threats simply “won’t carry any weight,” Smith added. “The whole notion of homosexuality as being something to be ashamed of is going into the dustbin of history.”
COPYRIGHT 2003 Liberation Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group