Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr told listeners of the Spanish-language radio program El Desahogo last week that the New York City Council is “controlled by the homosexual community.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has described Díaz’s remarks as homophobic, and called on him to apologize.
Rubén Díaz Sr returns to the New York City Council
An ordained Church of God minister and Democrat from the Bronx, Díaz began a second stint on the City Council in January 2018. He had previously spent a year on the Council in 2002 before being elected to the New York State Senate, where he served for fourteen years.
When Díaz was interviewed by El Desahogo, or “The Relief” – a show aimed at local taxi drivers – he described facing rejection from his fellow council members.
“When I get to the City Council, I find that the City Council is controlled — most council members out of 51 council members — over there, everybody is controlled by the homosexual community,” he said.
Díaz also stated that Speaker Corey Johnson is gay and married to another man.
Johnson is gay, but is actually single. A spokesperson from his office formally demanded an apology from Díaz:
“Council Member Díaz Sr.’s homophobic comments are offensive to both the Speaker and the body, and have no place in New York City. He should apologize to all of his colleagues, and the entire LGBTQ community.”
A history of controversial positions
This is not the Democrat’s first encounter with controversy.
During his time in the New York State Senate, Díaz was one of three senators who refused to caucus with their fellow Democrats following the 2008 elections.
Known as the “Gang of Three,” the disruption was enough to hand effective control of the Senate back to the Republicans. The incident is widely seen as a precursor to the formation of the breakaway Independent Democratic Caucus, which gave the GOP a majority in-all-but-name in the Senate for most of a decade (although Díaz himself did not join the IDC).
But Díaz is perhaps best known for his hard line position against marriage equality, which he vocally opposed for years before it was finally became law in 2011.
“It is against the Jewish Religion, the Islamic Religion, and Christian Religions,” he wrote in a 2007 press release. “These religions do not support the belief in or practice of homosexuality.”
Díaz’s outspoken opposition became so prominent that he received death threats, and a Brooklyn gay bar held a “F**** Rubén Díaz Festival.
The wider influence of Rubén Díaz Sr
Now chairman of a recently-created City Council committee in charge of regulating the taxi industry, Díaz’s influence reaches far beyond just his seat on the City Council.
His son, Rubén Díaz Jr, is Bronx Borough President. Bronx Assemblyman and Bronx Democratic Party chairman Marcos Crespo, is described as a disciple.
Like Díaz, Crespo is a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage and other LGBT-related reforms. He has also been accused of keeping female candidates off the ballot if they do not share the socially conservative views of Díaz and himself.
When NY-1 reporter Zack Fink recently tried to speak to six women about conditions within the Bronx Democratic Party, all six refused to speak on the record. Some pulled out of agreements to talk after having discussions with other members of Crespo’s organization.
“Hey Zack,” one woman texted Fink. “We can’t do it. It would get both me and my family member fired. Financially we can’t afford the backlash.”
Speaking of Crespo she continued in another text, “That’s how powerful he is – he can make a call and get us both fired.”
During Díaz Sr’s appearance on El Desahogo, he claimed that during a meeting with Crespo and Díaz Jr they conspired to land Díaz Sr with his new chairmanship.
“My son, the Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., and Marcos Crespo, we all sit down and they ask me, he says, ‘Daddy, what is it that you want in the Council?’ ‘Well, I want to be the transportation committee chair, because I want to work with taxi drivers,'” he said.
As the transportation committee already had a chair, Díaz claims the City Council created the taxi committee as a compromise.
In a statement, Speaker Johnson denied Diaz’s account:
“All of the appointments are based on merit, expertise, and familiarity with issues covered by each committee. Council Member Díaz Sr. Represents many of the for-hire vehicle drivers this Council has been trying to help in a time of unprecedented turmoil in the industry, and the Council has produced excellent work in this legislative session.”