WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Stonewall Democrats, one of the largest LGBTQ political groups in the city, has withdrawn its reelection support for Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, after he publicly endorsed Ruben Diaz Sr., a controversial, anti-LGBT candidate running for City Council in The Bronx.
The club, which organized a special meeting Thursday evening, shortly after the councilman’s endorsement became public earlier in the week, said in a statement that although Rodriguez has historically been a friend of the club, he "misrepresented his position on supporting candidates who work against LGBT equality in his questionnaire, and that his support for Diaz Sr. was unacceptable."
The club said withdrawing their support for a candidate is " a very rare occurrence and something that hasn't happened in a number of years."
The councilman, who is running for his third term and speaker of the city council, filled out a questionnaire prior to receiving his endorsement from the club in June 2017, where he replied “no” to whether he had or will “in the future endorse or financially support any candidate for public office or current elected official with a track record of working against LGBT equality.”
Diaz, an ordained minister who has served as state senator of The Bronx's 32nd District for more than two decades, was the sole Democratic vote cast against the state's gay marriage law in 2011. He has also publicly denounced gay marriages, according to reports.
Rodriguez at the meeting spoke of his support for the LGBTQ community in the past as well as his track record of fighting for civil justice.
“My fight is not just because I have been elected. My fight is because I believe in social justice. My fight is because I think we deserve to live in a society where everyone is treated equal,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez went on to say that for him this isn’t about the endorsement, but to be a leader “who can speak for everyone.”
Rodriguez said his support for Diaz Sr. is based on "three particular areas" — what he’s done for senior citizens and the aging community, being a champion for the taxi industry, and his support of Adriano Espaillat, the first Dominican to be congressman.
Sources said what Rodriguez did isn't rare — others running for speaker have "courted" Diaz to get his support, which Rodriguez also brought up. But Rodriguez's mistake, according to the source, was to make public something others do secretly, adding that it shows he's not ready to take on a citywide position like the role of speaker.
“I think it’s unfair for me to be singled out, when you know some of my colleagues, they’ve been been putting money to the Reverend. They’ve been helping the Reverend,” Rodriguez said. “And many of you know that’s happening, you haven’t even called those colleagues of mine.”
The members of the club said what the councilman was saying wasn't true and that they weren't sure he understood the "insensitive" decision he made.
"Why would you come here and then expect us also to support you?" one Stonewall member asked the councilman.
The club ultimately voted to withdraw its endorsement, adding that it “does not relish calling out its friends by name, but we will not hesitate to continue hold all those who advance the political ambitions of bigoted candidates accountable for their actions.”