Anti-Gay NY State Senator: It’s ’War’ on Gay Families
New York State Sen. Rubén Díaz, Sr., has declared a "war" against gay and lesbian families in the wake of the state’s first legal same-sex weddings, reported The New Civil Rights Movement on July 25.
The article said that Díaz "threatened judges who performed same-sex marriages on Sunday in New York, [and] also literally declared war on same-sex married couples in his state, and threatened to have their marriages annulled. Hundreds of same-sex marriages were performed in New York State Sunday, the first day the new marriage equality law went into effect."
"We’re going to show them next week that everything they did today was illegal," Díaz declared on July 24, the day marriage equality took effect in New York. "Today we start the battle! Today we start the war!"
Díaz was speaking at a rally that had been put together by the anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage. His was the only vote from a Democratic state lawmaker against the new marriage equality law. Díaz is also a Pentecostal minister.
NOM is a Mormon-affiliated group that has spent millions of dollars around the country to roadblock--and, in Maine and California, roll back--the legal rights of gay and lesbian families.
The article went on to say, "Díaz is known for his strong anti-gay hatred, and his merging of his role as an ordained minister into his elected office, in violation of the constitutional concept of separation of church and state, a concept to which Diaz has said he does not subscribe."
The article also reported that Díaz and president of NOM, Brian Brown, have been collaborating closely.
There has been some dissent over the issue in Díaz’s own family. Erica Díaz was among counter-protestors who showed up at a May 15 rally in Manhattan to counter a NOM-sponsored event that same day in The Bronx.
Rubén Díaz, Sr. was a leader at that anti-gay rally as well. He has led several similar rallies: Two years ago, as then-Gov. David Paterson pushed for a State Senate vote on a bill that would have extended marriage equality to New York families--a bill already approved on multiple occasions by the State Assembly--Díaz headed up opposition to the bill.
Erica Díaz joined her grandfather on the platform where he was speaking. Embracing her, Díaz told the crowd, "This is my granddaughter, and I love her."
Erica Díaz told NY 1, "He’s my grandfather and I respect that he’s so firm in what he believes in.
"However, I have my own opinions on this issue," the young woman added. "I believe that everyone deserves a chance to exercise their human rights and marry the person they love."
But on June 5, Erika Díaz wrote an op-ed for the New York Post in which she said that her grandfather’s silence at one rally in which a fellow cleric called for the deaths of gay people "shattered" her.
"This time it was not his words that hurt me. It was his silence," Erika Díaz wrote in the June 5 article.
"My grandfather, state Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz, spoke about marriage equality on a Spanish radio station in April. He was joined on the airwaves by a priest who said, ’Gay people are worthy of death.’
"Papa didn’t say anything. I was shattered," Erika continued. "I am the gay granddaughter of Albany’s most outspoken marriage-equality opponent. Until now, out of love, I closeted my feelings about my family’s patriarch, who has so vehemently denounced gay rights.
"But my grandfather should know that as he continues to skewer the marriage-equality bill on the radio, television and in newspapers, I am listening and reading. And I’ve finally conjured the courage to stand up for what is right."
Díaz was a speaker at the anti-gay rally Erika referred to. The rally took place in May. Díaz was preceded as a speaker by Rev. Ariel Torres Ortega, a separate article at The New Civil Rights Movement reported. Ortega declared that gays and bisexuals should be put to death.
"He did not state if he believed this should be coded into law, whom would be the judge, how proof would be obtained, and if this was a stepped program, i.e., if any homosexual act would automatically deserve the death penalty, or if there would be a ’three strikes’ provision," noted the article dryly.
The article’s headline, "Kill the Gays NYC?," referenced a highly controversial bill that was proposed in Uganda by an anti-gay lawmaker there, David Bahati, who has ties to anti-gay American evangelicals.
Under Bahati’s bill, gay men who have sex with other men repeatedly would be executed. HIV positive men who had even a single same-sex encounter would also be killed (though HIV positive heterosexual men would not be punished for sexual contact with women). Moreover, Bahati’s bill provided for steep penalties for anyone knowing about a same-sex relationship but not turning the couple in to the authorities.
The bill has excited intense international condemnation and has not come up for a vote in the Ugandan parliament.
In the United States, acceptance of GLBT individuals and their families has continued to climb, with a recent poll showing a slender majority in support of marriage equality for the first time. But in the wake of marriage parity’s legalization in New York, opponents of full legal equality for GLBTs have grown more vocal.
The response to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a possible candidate for 2012, saying that he was fine with marriage equality in New York and supported the rights of states to decide on marriage law for themselves was met with a chorus of condemnation; Perry quickly changed his tune, and expressed support for an amendment to the United States Constitution to eradicate marriage parity in the six states where it is now legal and put family parity out of reach of gay and lesbian Americans for years, perhaps generations, to come.
"When I was younger, marriage equality was not an issue for me," Erika Díaz added in her op-ed piece. "But now, as my grandfather ceaselessly and callously comments on the issue, each and every word stings, since I live with my girlfriend of 2½ years, Naomi Torres, and our two sons, Jared and Jeremiah Munoz.
"This fight is personal."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.