Diaz Threatens to Revolt If Paterson Brings Up Gay Marriage

ALBANY—State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage, said that putting it on the agenda for the special session will get him "back to the ring."

"As you know, I have been a soldier in the fight, in the control fight," Diaz just told me. "I have been keeping myself quiet, out of the headlines, out of the action. Governor Paterson is saying things that, if he wants to bring me back to the ring, I will jump into the ring."

He didn't elaborate further, only adding that "the time is very volatile. The situation is very volatile, very sensitive. If they want to bring me back into the ring, I will jump into the ring with that issue."

Diaz, one of the "amigos" that have persistently frustrated the leadership of the Democratic conference, has stayed true to the party during this leadership struggle as his fellow amigos Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate defected. ("I am innocent," Diaz told me the day of the coup.)

At this point, it would only take one defector to legitimize either side of the leadership struggle, making Diaz (and any other senator, from either party) a critical swing vote.

This makes things especially complicated for the Democrats. As Diaz threatens to defect if gay marriage comes up in the special session,  State Senator Tom Duane is implicitly threatening to defect if it doesn't come up.

Duane sent a letter Friday to his colleagues saying he cannot support a leader who does not bring the marriage bill to the floor in 2009. Duane, the chamber's only openly gay member, flirted with the Republican-led coalition two weeks ago.

After a press conference at which he did not say explicitly whether he would push for same-sex marriage legislation in a special session, David Paterson told The Times that he would bring the measure to a vote this year.