The Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr., a state senator from the Bronx and a longtime opponent of gay rights, is refusing to endorse either candidate for mayor this year, bringing a sigh of relief to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered supporters of both candidates.
Regardless, incumbent Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign sought last Friday to play up Democrat Fernando Ferrer’s associations with Diaz, while discounting the mayor’s own embrace of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind and others who have at times exceeded Diaz in spewing anti-gay bigotry.
Diaz told Gay City News, “They have nothing to offer me according to the Bible,” citing the support by both Bloomberg and Ferrer for same-sex marriage and abortion. The fact that the mayor is in court fighting last February’s court order that the city clerk issue same-sex marriage licenses does not assuage the Bronx state senator.
Ferrer has had a complicated relationship with the minister, especially given their common political roots in the Bronx. Ferrer endorsed Diaz over once-indicted Pedro Espada, Jr. in the State Senate race last year. And last Friday, he stood with Diaz and other elected officials at a press conference calling on the mayor to close the Soundview Education Campus in the Bronx that sits on a toxic site.
At the event, Ferrer said, “We’re here to talk about the health of thousands of kids in a public school. I will stand with any concerned elected official representative of this community who is as concerned as I am about their health.”
He added, “Senator Diaz and I have disagreed on a great many things.”
But Diaz resents Ferrer for calling for his resignation from the Civilian Complaint Review Board in 1994 after Diaz tried to have the Gay Games banned from New York saying that the city would be a breeding ground for HIV if the event took place.
The Daily News called Ferrer’s appearance with whom it termed the “homophobic” Diaz a “New Freddy Stump Slip,” but could only get gay Republican City Council candidate Patrick Murphy to condemn the Democratic mayoral candidate for it.
“It’s disappointing that Mr. Ferrer has chosen to campaign with someone with such a history of anti-gay comments,” the Republican candidate to fill the East Side Council seat vacated by Eva Moskowitz told the Daily News.
None of the LGBT Ferrer supporters surveyed for this article were troubled by a joint appearance with Diaz, but Gerard Cabrera, co-president of the Out People of Color Political Action Club, called Diaz a “demagogue” and urged Ferrer not to entertain an endorsement from him.
Andres Duque, a longtime leader in the LGBT Latino community, wrote in his blog that “the issue of Diaz is a sore point for me,” but after looking at the comparisons of the Ferrer and Bloomberg records on LGBT issues, “my vote remains with Ferrer.”
A highly placed official in the Bloomberg campaign had called Gay City News several hours before the Bronx press conference to make sure the newspaper was aware of “what Freddy was doing today.” The campaign declined to make an official comment on the matter, however.
Diaz has led anti-gay marriage rallies at City Hall with fundamentalist minister Joseph Mattera, who has ties to the mayor. “This is a much bigger threat to our national culture than the threat of terrorism is,” said Mattera at one such rally last year.
Mattera was joined by Bloomberg in 2004 for the formation of the City Action Coalition, founded to “effect moral and social change in our nation by encouraging strategic partnerships to represent and advocate for the Judeo-Christian values of mainstream America to media, elected and public officials, the New York region, and to the nation at large.”
Mattera’s coalition is sponsoring “Is Same-Sex Marriage a Civil Right?”—an effort to demonstrate that it is not—in the art gallery of the Harlem State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street on Tuesday, October 12 from 9:30 a.m.- noon. Registration for the event is available at 718-436-0242, ext. 14.
Diaz endorsed Bloomberg in 2001 and noted that he was “one of only two Hispanic elected officials to do so.” The other was City Councilman Joel Rivera, now supporting Ferrer, the former Bronx Borough president.
Diaz is dumping Bloomberg this year because he is “disappointed” in the mayor’s “closing of services for senior citizens” and his handling of public education.
Bloomberg has accepted one major endorsement from an outspokenly anti-gay public official, Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
When the battle over same-sex marriage heated up in New York in 2003, Hikind told the Daily News, “What’s next? Do we legalize bestiality? Do we legalize incest?”
Back in the ‘80s, when the city gay and lesbian rights bill was under consideration, Hikind led rallies against it and testified that “it is laughable to consider the gay community as a deprived community and needing special protections.” The bill passed in 1986.
When the New York State Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act was passed in the Assembly in 1999, he mistakenly voted yes electronically and then changed his vote to “present.” Hikind, an Orthodox Jew, said at the time, “I have no intention of supporting that bill, unless someone changes the laws of the Torah.” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, also Orthodox, supported the legislation, which was enacted in 2002.
Nevertheless, this past July Bloomberg said of Hikind in accepting his endorsement, “His political acumen and skills are legendary.” This week, campaign spokesman Stu Loeser wrote in an e-mail, “As we said when the Assemblyman endorsed the Mayor, no two people have the same view on everything, and the Mayor disagrees with some of Mr. Hikind’s statements and proposals.”
Gary Parker, president of Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, said, “Freddy Ferrer is a consensus builder who had continually fought along side the LGBT community in our ongoing struggle for equal civil rights. We do not hold Freddy responsible for the viewpoints of radicals like State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., whose divisive and misguided views are far out of step with the majority of New Yorkers.”
Parker added, “In kind, the Mayor’s acceptance of Hikind’s endorsement in no way diminishes the Mayor’s clearly-demonstrated, dismal record on LGBT issues.”