Rubén Díaz Sr. Stands Fast Against Gay Marriage as His Own Son Supports It

Senator Rubén Díaz addresses the anti-gay marriage crowd in D.C. (Photo: Díaz's office)
Senator Rubén Díaz addresses the anti-gay marriage crowd in D.C. (Photo: Díaz’s office)

As the fiery Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr., a New York State Senator, thundered against same-sex marriage in the nation’s capital, his son, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., was about to do the very opposite. The younger Díaz was joining a wave of politicians who have recently reversed their positions in favor of gay marriage, but his father said he was unswayed by the momentum against him.

“Marriage is sacred. Marriage is an institution established by God and it should stay that way,” he said. “The majority is not always right. 2,000 years ago the majority chose the rabbi and rejected Jesus. Now, the majority are rejecting the Bible and not choosing Jesus. I know my conviction and I know I will not change my view. I could be only one in the whole world and I would not change my view.”

Mr. Díaz Sr., a Pentecostal minister, was returning from an overnight vigil and march in Washington D.C. in support of the Defense of Marriage Act when his son blasted out a statement urging the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA, which denies federal benefits to gay couples. Never shy about espousing the glory of Christ, the elder Díaz, 69, suddenly found himself publicly at odds with his ambitious son, but he said he wasn’t fazed.

“The beauty of America is that people can choose what they want,” he said. “My son respects my decision to follow the Bible. This will not divide the family. A lot of people would like to see the family divided. On the contrary, the family is stronger than ever.”

His son, reclining in his borough president’s office just a long fly ball from Yankee Stadium, concurred.

“We love each other, we’re family, we just differ on views and this is just one of many views I differ on with my father,” he contended. “But this is not about him.”

A Democratic assemblyman by the time he was 23, the younger Díaz rose in the political world before his father–a heroin junkie-turned-evangelical preacher–assumed his place in the State Senate. Mr. Díaz Jr. won the borough presidency with ease a decade later. Since then, he’s mulled running for public advocate and has been gabbed about in political circles as someone who could one day be the city’s first Hispanic mayor. And, citing his openly gay niece and chief of staff, he said he simply had an epiphany on the marriage subject.

“The world didn’t end when marriage equality was passed in 2011,” he explained. “It just didn’t. It didn’t affect my personal quality of life. It didn’t affect Hilda’s, my wife, or my kids. My kids aren’t worse off because of marriage equality. So people are starting to be like, ‘Wait a minute, you know, then what are we against? Are we against love?’”

His father, clearly, doesn’t accept that sort of reasoning. The lone Democrat in the State Senate to vote against a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in New York two years ago, Mr. Díaz Sr. has further drawn attention to himself–beyond his fire-and-brimstone preaching–for regularly shooting off opinionated missives, confidently entitled “What You Should Know,” that sharply criticize gay marriage, abortion and stem-cell research–the latter, for example, he once equated to “Hitler using the ashes of the Jews to make bars of soap.”

But, despite the reverend’s constant pronouncements to the contrary, same-sex marriage is now almost universally embraced by city elected officials and for Mr. Díaz Jr. to further climb up the political ladder he may need to ensure his 2007 vote against gay marriage doesn’t become a future liability. That is why El Diario columnist Gerson Borrero, never a fan of the Díaz clan, believes the borough president’s recent revelation is little more than a calculation.

“For him to say that somehow he has found a new calling, that he understands that people have a right to love whoever they fall in love with and have the same rights as any other human being and at the same time also say he found thoat out as a result of his chief of staff influencing him and then also his niece, is a weak and really dishonest crutch,” Mr. Borrero said, arguing that the younger Díaz needs to more forcefully denounce his father. “This is simply a political ploy.”

For his part, Mr. Díaz Jr. said electoral ambitions had nothing to do with his announcement, which he insisted was simply the same change of heart countless others have professed.

“What I also didn’t want is for people to think I was doing it for some type of political reason, to be honest with you,” he explained. “There was much talk about perhaps me running citywide. … There’s no major opponent against me; I’m not running citywide. I just thought that this was the time for me to do the right thing.” Rubén Díaz Sr. Stands Fast Against Gay Marriage as His Own Son Supports It