THE BRONX — As the U.S. Supreme Court considered another major case centered on gay marriage, two high-profile Bronx politicians offered their own opinions on the matter.
And while their verdicts were worlds apart, the two men are closely related — they are father and son.
As State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. was returning Wednesday from an overnight vigil and a march in Washington, D.C. to oppose same-sex marriage, his son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was declaring for the first time his support for the right of gay people to marry.
“After considerable deliberation and introspection, I support marriage equality,” Diaz Jr. said in a statement Wednesday. “My decision, which comes after years of thought and reflection on the issue, is informed by the experiences I have had with close friends, family and loved ones.”
The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments about the constitutionality of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which reserves federal marriage benefits for opposite-sex couples.
“I strongly believe that this law should be struck down,” Diaz Jr. said. “Individuals who love one another, regardless of their sexual orientation, should not be denied the benefits of marriage.”
Meanwhile, Diaz Sr. led a caravan of 30 buses to the nation’s capital Tuesday to speak to some 10,000 people at a rally and marched to the Supreme Court Building to champion a definition of marriage that does not include same-sex couples.
“We believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said in a statement of his own. “It’s as simple as that.”
When the state legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, Diaz Jr. did not explicitly back the law, but instead urged citizens to “move forward” and to celebrate diversity.
On Wednesday, he formally endorsed the legalization of gay marriage, adding that in the time since New York’s statute was passed, his quality of life “has not suffered one bit.”
His father had cast the senate’s lone Democratic vote against the marriage law.
Diaz Jr. cited two people who had influenced his decision: his chief of staff, Paul Del Duca, who married his partner in 2011; and his niece, Erica Diaz.
Erica Diaz, a young woman who was discharged from the U.S. Navy after coming out as a lesbian, staged a rally in support of the state’s same-sex marriage bill two years ago outside the Bronx County Building where her uncle works.
Across the street from hers was a larger, louder rally denouncing the proposed gay marriage law. The leader of that gathering was Ruben Diaz Sr.