It’s déjà vu all over again.
Less than two years after he was ripped by the local LGBTQ community and lost endorsements because of his ties to one of the city’s most fervently anti-gay politicians, Manhattan City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez is surrounding himself with homophobes yet again — this time in his bid for public advocate — and he’s even getting a boost from the leader of a right-wing Christian political party from the Dominican Republic.
Bronx Councilmembers Fernando Cabrera and Ruben Diaz, Sr., who both are conservative Democrats who have used their taxpayer-funded jobs to amplify anti-LGBTQ messages and vote against the rights of the community, are enthusiastically endorsing Rodriguez in the February 26 special election to replace former Public Advocate Letitia James, who is now serving as state attorney general.
Cabrera became known for his trip to Uganda in the time after that nation ushered in a law that instituted severe penalties for homosexuality and anyone who supported LGBTQ folks. In a video from Uganda, he railed against the United States for pressuring the African nation on gay rights. The councilmember also has rallied with Alliance Defending Freedom, a far-right legal group that most recently has been representing Masterpiece Cakeshop baker Jack Phillips of Colorado as he remains embroiled in legal battles over his refusal to serve gay and transgender customers.
Diaz, Sr., a longtime fixture in New York City politics who re-joined the City Council last year after spending more than a decade in the State Senate, was among the most vocal opponents of marriage equality before it passed in 2011. In 1994 he wrote that the Gay Games, to be held in New York that June, “would lead to an increase in AIDS cases and to wider acceptance of homosexuality by young people.”
Rodriguez watched his support in the LGBTQ community evaporate in 2017 when he aligned himself with the elder Diaz, which prompted the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club to rescind their endorsements of him in his own re-election campaign for City Council.
Aside from endorsements, Rodriguez also donated $2,000 to Cabrera on August 28, 2017, according to campaign finance records.
Rodriguez has voted in support of LGBTQ legislation during his time in office and has sponsored bills that would benefit the community. But he has been hobbled by his ties to religious homophobic politicians, and now he is unapologetically welcoming their support in his bid for the citywide office.
In a video posted on Twitter earlier this month, Cabrera was seen praying over petitions for Rodriguez’s candidacy for public advocate. Several others, including Rodriguez, were also present as the group asked God to help him succeed in the race.
A January 25 article published by Tamboril News, a Spanish-language news outlet, notes that Diaz, Sr. endorsed Rodriguez at an event during which both politicians were seen raising their hands in unity. In endorsing Rodriguez, the elder Diaz stressed a need to strengthen the communities of faith, according to Tamboril News.
Among others present at that event included Federico “Quique” Antún Batlle, who leads the right-wing Social Christian Reformist Party in the Dominican Republic.
A spokesperson for Rodriguez told Gay City News last week that he “has always supported the LGBTQIA community and stands for equality for all.” The Rodriguez campaign did not respond to an inquiry from Gay City News this week regarding endorsements he has received from politicians who have a track record of fighting against gay rights.
According to the city’s campaign finance board, Rodriguez is among 10 candidates who have qualified for a February 6 public advocate debate that will be televised live on NY1 and on the NY1 Facebook page. Candidates need to have raised and spent at least $56,938 in order to qualify for the debate.
Rodriguez has an estimated balance of $69,014 on hand in his campaign account, which ranks fifth on the list among his opponents. Bronx Assemblymember Michael Blake and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito lead the pack with $188,729 and $179,795, respectively.