“Every Sunday morning, the deep, melodious voice of State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. rumbles across the congregation at his Bronx church. On weekdays, it echoes across the Senate chamber as he rails against Medicaid cuts or abortion. Earlier this year, it enthralled thousands at a boisterous rally against same-sex marriage.
But ask him about the gay people in his own life, and Mr. Díaz’s voice grows quiet. His smile vanishes.”
Love the “melodious.” makes for a crisp adjectival impact for when we hit the “quite” and the “vanishes.”
Two of his brothers are gay, he murmurs, one of them recently deceased. So is a granddaughter. There is an old friend who works for him in the Senate. And a former campaign aide.
“I love them. I love them,” says Mr. Díaz, who grew up one of 17 children in Puerto Rico. “But I don’t believe in what they are doing. They are my brothers. They are my family.”
His voice rises again. “So how could I be a homophobe?”
“For those fighting to expand gay rights, Mr. Díaz, a Pentecostal minister, represents the most outspoken and unpredictable of foes. He was forced to resign from the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board years ago for suggesting that the Gay Games would encourage homosexuality and spread H.I.V. In 2003, he sued the city to shut down a high school for gay and transgender students.
As advocates push for a vote on same-sex marriage in the State Senate on Tuesday, Mr. Díaz is again speaking out, arguing that last week’s election results show that the tide has turned against allowing gay people to wed.
And, given the Democrats’ fragile majority — the party has 32 senators to the Republicans’ 30 — Mr. Díaz’s stubbornness often yields results.”
“Stubbornness” sounds so much nicer than rank foaming-at-the-mouth hatred, doesn’t it?
“The people of the nation don’t want gay marriage,” Mr. Díaz said in an interview Monday. “They didn’t want it in California; they didn’t want it in Maine. And the people of upstate New York, after what happened to the candidate in the 23rd Congressional District, they sent a message they don’t want gay marriage. Forget about it. People don’t want it.”
They didn’t want interracial marriage either.
Or an end to “Jim Corw”
Or an end to slavery for that matter.
Mr. Díaz argued that the bill legalizing same-sex marriage should not be allowed to come to the floor, saying the Legislature has more important issues to attend to.
And some of his colleagues on Monday, while avoiding his provocative language, appeared to be moving to that position, worried that the political climate is too tense and the state’s fiscal crisis too urgent for the issue to be taken up now. On Monday evening, it was not clear whether the Senate would consider the measure.
The fight over same-sex marriage has thrust Mr. Díaz, 66, back into a familiar role — dissenting from and exasperating Democratic Senate leaders and some of his colleagues.
Earlier this year, he and three other Democrats initially refused to back Malcolm A. Smith, the Senate’s top Democrat, for majority leader, throwing the Democratic caucus into chaos until Mr. Smith offered them perks and committee chairmanships.
Mr. Díaz is also the Senate’s most outspoken opponent of abortion, and he once likened the harvesting of stem cells for research to Hitler using “the ashes of the Jews to make bars of soap.”
“He always comes into conference or onto the floor with his mind made up, ready to argue,” said Senator Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who represents Manhattan and the Bronx. “And he loves to argue.”
Oh he loves a lot more than that. Evoking “the ashes of the Jews to make bars of soap” when opposing abortion is a whole ‘nother thing than “argue.”
But to Mr. Díaz and his friends, the senator’s steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage seems at times incongruous.
Christopher R. Lynn, Mr. Díaz’s chief counsel, who is gay and lives with his partner in Queens, said that he has undergone three back operations, and that every time he goes into the hospital, Mr. Díaz has been there.
“He is a true believer in Christian values, in treating people the way you want to be treated,” Mr. Lynn said.
Mr. Díaz describes Mr. Lynn as “my brother.” They often double-date with their respective better halves. Mr. Lynn has not been able to move Mr. Díaz on the issue of marriage.
“He said to me, ‘For me to accept this, I have to turn my whole value system upside down,’ ” Mr. Lynn said.
And for Lynn to pretend that this monster is a friend is to turn HIS whole value system upside down. Lynn is lucky to live in New York where hospitals allow same-sex partners access to one another (by common consent , not law.)
Of course legal rights are another matter, easily solved through marriage —
which his “friend” Diaz opposes.
Mr. Díaz, whose South Bronx district is the second-poorest in New York, also raises his voice loudly on behalf of the poor, leaving some liberals in the Capitol reluctant to criticize him for his social views because he has been a reliable ally on economic issues.
“I see people looking at me, like, ‘Look at this guy,’ ”Mr. Díaz said, rolling his eyes. “And in the end, I get what want.”
And tha’ts all that matters, isn’t it? What YOU want.
In many ways, Mr. Díaz seems conflicted. He relishes the role of the lonely dissident, sometimes practically taunting Democratic leaders to throw him out of the party. Still, the senator resents those who brand him a bigot for his views, and seems to plead for understanding.
“My religion doesn’t allow me to dance,” he said. “But that does not mean I don’t go to the party. My religion doesn’t allow me to drink. But that doesn’t mean I can’t hang around with my friends. My religion is against gay marriage. It means, I don’t agree with what you do. But let’s go out. Let’s go to the movies. Let’s be friends.”
Mr. Díaz grew up in Puerto Rico. His father, a carpenter, had five children with his mother; Mr. Díaz also had 11 half-brothers and sisters. He joined the Army out of high school, in 1960, and served in Fort Jackson, S.C.
He moved to New York in 1965 and fell into drugs. Arrested for possession of heroin and marijuana, he got probation. Not long after, he found God. He became a pastor, a community leader, a city councilman, a senator.
In addition to being a junkie. Clearly he’d already found God — on a spoon.
Affection seems to flow to him from unexpected places. On a tour of his district, Mr. Díaz eagerly showed a reporter Christian Community in Action, an agency he founded in the burnt-out ruins of the Bronx to provide home health aides to the sick and elderly. There, Mr. Díaz greeted Vincent Ortiz, a supervisor he has known for 18 years.
“We fight, of course,” said Mr. Ortiz, who is gay. “But it is mostly good years.”
But then there are moments of coldness. Last year, Lisa Winters, who runs the Bronx Pride Community Center, a group for gay youth, requested a meeting with the senator. He never responded. She showed up anyway, with a group of gay teenagers, and was told that Mr. Díaz was not in. Moments later, she said, they saw Mr. Díaz leaving his office by a side door.
(The senator said he does not recall this happening. “I never hide from anyone,” he said.)
Of course you hid — scumbag! Ortiz and Winters should know they can’t count on this lying motherfucker. But they’re suckers for a smile and a handshake. Internalized Homophobia works like a charm.
This spring, Mr. Díaz led a small delegation of legislators to Puerto Rico, and at the end of the trip, he hosted a barbeque at his family’s home.
His brother — whom Mr. Díaz will not name because, he says, the brother is not openly gay — was there to greet the guests. There was no discussion, Mr. Díaz said, about how he would vote on gay marriage.
“We don’t need to talk about that anymore,” Mr. Díaz said.
And here we get to the beating heart of the matter. Not just regarding creeps like Diaz, but gay rights overall.
“His brother — whom Mr. Díaz will not name because, he says, the brother is not openly gay — was there to greet the guests.”
IOW the brother is visible and invisible at the same time. Said brother is “not openly gay” so Diaz will do what so many blinkered gays (who in their heart of hearts STILL believe that being gay is somethign awful) ask, and “not name” him.
Thus one of the rankest homophobes in politics gets a pass.
What he needs — and I’m sure he’d “privately” agree — is a shot.
Sing us out Nico!