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Uptown Gay Activists Slam Councilman on Ruben Diaz Sr. Endorsement

By Carolina Pichardo | August 17, 2017 6:31pm
 Uptown gay activists said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez's endorsement of Ruben Diaz Sr. is
Uptown gay activists said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez's endorsement of Ruben Diaz Sr. is "mind-boggling."
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Several gay activists Uptown are calling on Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez to rescind his support of state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. — who they called one of the “biggest enemies” of the gay community — or else they will be “forced to primary him out.”

Members of Equality New York and Uptown LGBT Progressives launched a petitionTuesday morning expressing their “anger and disappointment” at Rodriguez for supporting a candidate who holds “toxic and hateful views that are harmful to all residents of New York City, but more specifically to the thousands of LGBTI residents and the hundreds of thousands of women in the Bronx.”

Diaz, who has served for almost two decades as state senator of The Bronx's 32nd District, cast the sole Democratic vote against the state's gay marriage law in 2011, and last year invited Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to The Bronx.

He is currently running for the 18th City Council District, which covers Soundview, Castle Hill and Parkchester.

“Why any Democrat will choose to support Senator Diaz is mind-boggling,” said local activist Dylan Stein, of Equality New York, who wrote the letter. “Don’t we need more elected officials that are going to make New York safer for all its residents?”

Stein said his disappointment in Rodriguez led him to write the letter, noting he has previously supported the councilman, who has been an ally for the LGBTQ community in the past.

Rodriguez was recently endorsed by the Stonewall Democratic Club, one of the largest LGBTQ political groups in the city.

“The past is great, but the present is one where the LGBTQ [community] is being diminished,” Stein said. “He’s endorsed a rabidly homophobic candidate.”

But Rodriguez, who is currently running for his third and final term, as well as City Council speaker, defended his endorsement, writing that he is “currently and will continue to stand behind LGBTQ candidates for public office.” 

The councilman said that Diaz's stance on LBGTQ issues “does not mean that he cannot continue to advocate effectively for his constituents, nor legislate shrewdly on issues I do support, such as increasing Latino representation and support for working families.”

Locals like David Friend said the response only came after “blowback he is getting for endorsing the virulently anti-LGBT and anti-choice Ruben Diaz Sr.” 

“It seems extremely weak to me,” Friend said of Rodriguez's defense of Diaz. “How would he respond if someone endorsed a candidate who said Dominicans or Latinos didn't deserve full equality under the law? For some reason, he thinks LGBT people should be willing to accept less.”

Uptown LGBT Progressives member James Hirschfeld, who has lived in Washington Heights for more than a decade, recalled "being disgusted when state senator Ruben Diaz Sr. so fiercely opposed marriage equality in New York." 

"Residents of Washington Heights and Inwood deserve elected representatives who serve their constituents, not their own self-serving political ambitions," Hirschfeld said in an email to DNAinfo New York. "Ydanis Rodriguez would serve his constituents best by endorsing progressive politicians for NYC City Council — not a conservative who stood with Ted Cruz and Donald Trump last year."

Stein said that while he doesn’t believe the councilman will rescind his support, he urged him to listen to the community.

Activists translated the petition into Spanish Thursday morning, and they are planning on taking both versions to the streets in the coming days to gather more signatures. They will then forward all the letters to Rodriguez for him review “sometime in the near future,” Stein said.

“He should listen to us,” Stein said. “Not only will he on the right side of history, but he’ll be protecting himself.”

Diaz's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Stonewall Democratic Club planned to host an emergency meeting Thursday night in Chelsea to discuss its endorsement of Rodriguez.