As he spoke to a crowd of roughly 2,000 at an anti-gay marriage rally held outside of the Bronx Borough Hall building, Rev. Ruben Diaz took a moment to address the small group of counter demonstrators who gathered in a park directly across from building.
“We all respect you,” Diaz said on May 15. “We respect you and we love you...So you guys over there, listen. There’s no hatred in my heart.”
This is the kinder and gentler rhetoric employed by conservatives who know that Americans are fed up with the insults and slurs that right wingers aim at the lesbian and gay community. Like so many of his peers, Diaz, a Democratic state senator who represents part of the Bronx, has a record that belies his comments.
In 1994, Diaz wrote an editorial in Impacto, a Spanish-language newspaper, that said that athletes coming to New York City to participate in the Gay Games that year would spread HIV.
“Some of the gay and lesbian athletes are likely to be already infected with AIDS or can return home with the virus,” he wrote. Diaz objected to the Clinton administration waiving the ban on HIV positive travelers entering the US. He appeared at a City Hall press conference with other conservatives to condemn the Gay Games.
“These Gay Games will teach our young adults and children that homosexuality is okay,” the UPI quoted Diaz saying at the press conference. “There is nothing more obscene. This kind of behavior is biologically dangerous. Homosexuality is a sin against God's laws and therefore is not acceptable.”
Diaz was joined at that press conference by Mary Cummins, a Queens conservative who led a 1992 attack against the Children of the Rainbow curriculum because three pages in that 430-page teacher’s guide referred to positive representations of gay men and lesbians.
In 2003, Diaz sued to halt city funding of the Harvey Milk School in the West Village. That school serves lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and gay youth who have been subjected to violence and harassment in other schools.
“My goal is to let the mayor of the city of New York, the chancellor, and the school system know that it is wrong what they are doing,” Diaz said at a 2003 press conference held outside of Manhattan Supreme Court. “It is segregation. They are showing preference and they are leaving my children, my Spanish children, my black children behind.”
Then, as now, 75 percent of the students at the Harvey Milk School are African-American and Latino. Diaz was joined by Rena Lindevaldsen, an attorney with the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, a group that defends “traditional families, sanctity of life and religious liberty,” she said.
“I think you can sum it all up by saying that in New York City the Department of Education is literally taking from the poor, those who are in the poor, failing schools and giving $4.0 million to those who are going to be in a newly renovated, expanded and fully equipped school,” Lindevaldsen said. “They are taking from the poor and giving to the rich.”
At that time, the majority of students at the school were poor and 10 percent were in foster care. The school also complied with all local, state, and federal anti-discrimination laws.
The Liberty Counsel opposed overturning the Texas sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas, a US Supreme Court case that overturned state sodomy laws, it fought recognition of civil unions in Georgia and Connecticut, and the group opposed adoption by gay men and lesbians in Florida.