By David Brand
Bronx Councilmember Ruben Diaz Sr. has doubled down on homophobic comments he made last week despite pressure to resign from City Council colleagues and LGBTQ+ rights organizations.
In an interview with the Eagle, Diaz explained his refusal to step down or even apologize after telling a Spanish-language TV program that, “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.” NY1 first reported the comments.
“I’m the victim,” Diaz told the Eagle. “If anyone deserves an apology here it’s me … I mean I’m the one being bullied.”
Diaz’s comments are the latest in a series of anti-gay statements and votes throughout his time in public office. Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who is gay, spoke out against Diaz’s record in 2017.
“I believe I first heard the name Ruben Diaz, Sr., in 1994. I was a young gay man excited about the Gay Games competition, which took place in our city that year. Senator Diaz, at the time a member of the CCRB, spoke out against the games with vile and overtly homophobic remarks,” Van Bramer told the Gay City News. “He spread fear and hatred of those with HIV and AIDS. It was shameful then, and it’s shameful now. I can never forgive him for those comments, made at a time when so many were dying, when so many in our community were struggling for equality and dignity. Sadly, the senator’s career has been filled with statements and actions against our community. It’s disgraceful. All of it. And I urge all to oppose his run for City Council.”
Van Bramer called for Diaz’s resignation this weekend and will host a rally denouncing Diaz at city hall on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
“When I was a closeted gay kid I never saw out, proud and powerful Queer people,” Van Bramer said on Twitter. “Had I seen that it might have stopped my suicidal thoughts then. It’s partly why I ran. To see this hatred of us makes me livid. I don’t want an apology. I want him to resign.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and members of the coucil’s LGBTQ Caucus and Women’s Caucus have also called on Diaz to resign for the comments and for his history of anti-LGBTQ statements and votes.
“We are appalled by Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr's most recent hateful remarks about this body, Speaker Corey Johnson and the greater LGBTQ community,” the City Council’s LGBT Caucus and Women's Caucus said in a joint statement. “This is by no means the first time Council Member Diaz has attacked LGBTQ people. From his opposition to marriage equality to his denigration of transgender individuals, he has made many outrageous statements about our families, our neighbors, and our lives over the years.”
But Diaz remained defiant, citing two instances when he said he was bullied by “the gay community” during his conversation with the Eagle.
The first allegedly occurred in 1993, when a “member of the gay community” threw a pitcher of water on him, he said.
“That was physical abuse,” he said.
The second instance occurred two years ago when Assemblymember Michael Blake, a candidate for public advocate, donated money to Diaz’s campaign, he said.
“When the gay community found out, they forced Michael Blake, my friend, to denounce me publicly and ask for the $1,000 back,” Diaz said. “When I go to City Council, I’m ostracized. I’m the one who is being harassed … The gay community controls the City Council.”
In 2017, Blake asked for the donation back after facing pressure from LGBTQ rights activists who cited Diaz’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
"Council Member Diaz's latest comments against the LGBTIA are unacceptable,” Blake told the Eagle in a statement. “They are divisive, hateful and homophobic. Diaz, Sr. should absolutely apologize. It is equally concerning that he chose to not apologize and double down. While we did work together in the past to help community residents, I absolutely reject this rhetoric."
Diaz has also refused to apologize for the statements despite encouragement from his son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Diaz abruptly ended the phone conversation when asked to define what he meant by the “gay community.”