Diaz pressed to resign for saying Council ‘gay controlled’

Bronx Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr. — seen above during an interview with sister paper Gay City News — is defying calls for his resignation. Photo by Matt Tracy

BY MATT TRACY | Local elected officials and advocates braved the snowy conditions outside City Hall on Tuesday morning to demand the resignation of Bronx Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., who remains defiant in his refusal to step down or even apologize for his recent homophobic remarks.

The City Council took direct action against Diaz the following day when lawmakers voted 45 to 1 to dissolve his Committee on For-Hire Vehicles.

“We must all call for his resignation, and he must go,” said openly gay Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens, who said Diaz’s comments about L.G.B.T.Q. folks controlling the City Council represented “an attempt to put us in our place.”

“I believe firmly that Councilmember Diaz’s comments embolden those who already hate us,” he added. “So we are not just speaking out against those comments, we are speaking for those L.G.B.T.Q. youth in the Bronx or otherwise who might be struggling with their sexual orientation or identity. His comments cannot be internalized by them.”

Diaz has claimed in recent days — including in an interview with Schneps Media’s Gay City News — that he is the “victim” in the ongoing saga stemming from his insensitive comments. Van Bramer fired back, saying Diaz is doubling down on his hatred.

“He says we are bullying him,” Van Bramer said. “I call bullshit.”

Two other L.G.B.T.Q. members of the City Council, Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn and Daniel Dromm of Queens, also spoke against Diaz at the event. Menchaca, the first openly gay councilmember from his borough and the first Mexican-American to serve on the City Council, offered a personal story of his own experience growing up in a religious atmosphere in El Paso, Texas.

“I grew up around people like him, the way that he speaks about his religion,” Menchaca said. “This is why he belongs in a church somewhere else spewing his hate, not in the City Council.”

“We say ‘basta’ to your homophobic heart,” Menchaca said, employing the Spanish word for “enough.”

Also present were Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who are both running for public advocate, as well as Councilmembers Rory Lancman of Queens and Mark Levine of Manhattan. Former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who is a lesbian, blasted Diaz for using “dog whistles” to attack the community.

Dromm brought with him a letter he wrote in 1994 to the Civil Complaint Review Board in which he demanded Diaz’s removal from the police-oversight agency because he said gay men and lesbians were “cursed,” made derogatory statements about the threat that year’s Gay Games in New York posed for increased H.I.V. transmissions, and said gays and lesbians fall into the same category as “thieves, slanderers, murderers, idolaters, drug addicts, misers, swindlers and criminals.”

In that letter, Dromm also noted that Diaz mocked then-City Councilmember Tom Duane, who, along with the late Antonio Pagán, served as the first openly gay members of the Council. According to the letter, Diaz said, “Does he [Duane] think I would tremble with fear, and run and kneel before this insignificant uncircumcised Philistine?”

Years later, Dromm said he was harassed with homophobic e-mails from Diaz during the fight for marriage equality in New York.

“I got these e-mails on almost a daily basis about ‘what you should know’ and they were horrific,” he said. “Just as bad as in this letter. I had to ask him, numerous times, to remove me from those e-mail lists. I had to go to the New York State secretary of state to get him to stop harassing me.”

Williams stressed the egregious nature of Diaz’s comments, saying that he has never before called for a public official’s resignation. Even worse, he said, is Diaz’s refusal to apologize.

“There is no room there for us to grow and to learn,” Williams said. “You can’t put a band-aid on something if there is no acknowledgement that there is a wound.”

Williams said the rhetoric spewed by Diaz helps contribute to the abuse faced by L.G.B.T.Q. people, including transgender black women, who he said are being “murdered with impunity.”

Notably absent from the event were the Council’s other two L.G.B.T.Q. members, Speaker Corey Johnson of Chelsea and Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. The evening before, Johnson publicly called on Diaz to resign, while Torres, in a tweet, said he “must be held accountable for poisoning the political atmosphere with his homophobic conspiracy theories.”

After the event, a spokesperson said, “Councilman Diaz will never apologize or resign. So the Council should strip him of his committee chairmanship to make an example of him.”

Some politicians took some swipes at Bronx leaders and at Johnson for his role in helping Diaz secure his spot as chairperson of the now-erased For-Hire Vehicles Committee.

“You have a Bronx party that embraced him,” said Mark-Viverito, who has apparently soured on Diaz, Sr., of late since she appeared happy to embrace him in a 2017 photo when she received a citation of merit from his son, Ruben Diaz, Jr., the Bronx borough president. “That uplifted him, that pushed him forward. You have a speaker that gave him a committee and gave him an assignment. This is unacceptable.”

Van Bramer similarly said that he “was not happy” when Diaz was given his post as committee chairperson, but largely refrained from directly placing blame on Johnson.

Mark-Viverito called on Diaz, Jr., and Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, the chairperson of the Bronx Democratic Party, to demand that the elder Diaz step down.

“Everyone, including the Bronx borough president, including the Bronx County leader, should demand his resignation,” Mark-Viverito said. “Nothing less than that. I have love in my heart but I have intolerance for bigotry and misogyny and homophobia.”

Johnson, speaking from Albany following his testimony on the state budget, said on Monday that Diaz should step down. He also said in a tweet on Sunday that the City Council is “currently reviewing all potential disciplinary scenarios” and that “nothing is off the table.”

It is unclear whether an investigation would be launched or if the dissolving of Diaz’s committee was the extent of any punishment levied against him. The Ethics Committee was slated to review Diaz’s actions on Tuesday, according to Van Bramer.

“I would hope that all of our colleagues who have joined in the call for the councilmember to resign would…be willing to stand up and vote to inflict the most severe punishment allowed,” Van Bramer said. “If that is expulsion, we should all vote to expel Diaz from the Council. I don’t know if that is on the table. I heard the speaker say anything is on the table. I assume there will be a full investigation.”

7 Responses to Diaz pressed to resign for saying Council ‘gay controlled’

  1. Whatever happened to freedom of speech and expression in this city?

    Can’t one express an opinion no matter how controversial it is?

    While I don’t agree with homophobic views, this kind of retaliation is draconian and it looks more like the city council is putting Ruben Diaz “in HIS place”.

    • Public bodies, elected bodies, have rules of order agreed upon BY ALL. Part of freedom of expression, and governance.

      Diaz Sr. is subject to the parliamentary rules. All are.

      Does his district overwhelmingly supports his diatribes? With their votes? Let’s explore them. Explain.

    • Freedom of Speech is a two-way street. Diaz is welcome to speak out, but others can do the same. They did. If he can't take the heat….

      Employers however, both public and private, must protect their businesses and follow the law, so when their employees digress, it's up to the employer to take action. While I prefer the voting booth for that, government has responsibilities and politics ain't beanbag.

      Diaz has clearly been around long enough to know better, so he must be ok with the consequences. And if he didn't know better, then he doesn't deserve to be working in City Hall. Let his chips fall where they may.

  2. As a 4-time Gay Games gold medalist in figure skating — most recently in Paris last summer — the most interesting thing to me is how Ruben Diaz Sn.'s behavior has been enabled by the Democrats for years. This is a person who (according to a recent Gothamist article) once equated being gay to “having sex with animals” and attacked the 1994 Gay Games in New York because he said the participants were “likely infected with AIDS” and could lead children “to conclude that if there are so many gay and lesbian athletes then there is nothing wrong, nor any risks involved.” He sued to stop a high school for gay and transgender students from opening and in 2016, proudly campaigned for president with Ted Cruz, the right-wing Republican senator from Texas. CM Diaz has no place in our City Council — but the Democrats have tolerated his unacceptable behavior, in hopes of getting quid pro quo political favors. So that's how things work in NYC politics — you tolerate bigotry that spreads hate and homophobia, but give him a committee chair (Corey Johnson), accept an award from him (Melissa Mark-Viverito), give $1,000 to his 2017 campaign (Michael Blake) and say you are open to working with him because "he has a great track record with constituent services" (Richie Torres). Maybe that's how this one-party town operates, but in the end, you betray your own beliefs as well as the people you love and your own community, all the interest of one thing: power. I'm glad I'm a member of the Green Party.

  3. It would be nice to have had the actual verbatim of the offending quote in this story.

  4. Our City needs a For-Hire Vehicles Council Committee to regulate and to over-see that burgeoning and sprawling industry. Dissolving the committee is not the thing to do–just replace the chairman.

  5. Stormy G. Gabriel

    Councilmember Reuben Diaz, Sr. should make a televised public apology to the l.g.b.t.q. Community. He being a minister I do understand his beliefs and I share many of them to a degree. Though he being a Councilmember need to think first, and humble himself. He has to realize that history repeats itself to a point, and the return of Ancient Babylon appears to be prevalent. We the heterosexual community need to balance immoral with moral turning a blind eye whe necessary. Only in extreme cases such as favoritism that's designated towards the spiritually immoral over the spiritually moral – then do we retaliate with professionalism. The resignation of Rep Diaz's seat will not change what he's said nor change his views. In actualilty it could hurt all the good he's done holding the position as City Councilmember. We never know who will run after, and replace him in his seat. He's held the seat for very long and should continue until he feels he no longer wants to. A public televised apology to those he has psychologically injured, plus community service as spiritual counseling to l.g.b.t.q. youth could be taken into consideration to make him more compasionate and understanding of their spiritual fall and it's root of development of infamy. Here he could be a mentor to show them from a righteous point of view how they can once again obtain grace in the Creators eyes by spiritual cleansing, returning to yin -vs- yang – Purification through Procreation to Preservation.

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