Bronx Councilmember Ruben Diaz Sr. is doubling down on his bigoted comments about the City Council being "controlled by the homosexual community," despite demands for an apology from a bevy of local elected officials, including his own son, and growing calls for his immediate resignation.
The comment, made by the elder Diaz on a Spanish-language radio program on Friday, drew a flurry of condemnations from the legislative body over the weekend. In a tweet, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said the "sentiments are antagonistic, quarrelsome and wholly unnecessary. He should apologize."
The council's LGBT Caucus, Women's Caucus, and Progressive Caucus have all issued statements calling for the 75-year-old Bronx representative's immediate resignation, with a rally planned for outside City Hall on Tuesday morning.
"When I was a closeted gay kid I never saw out, proud & powerful Queer people,” Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer tweeted. "Had I seen that it might have stopped my suicidal thoughts then. It’s partly why I ran. To see this hatred of us makes me livid. I don’t want an apology. I want him to resign."
But Diaz Sr. has stood by his assessment that the 51-member body is controlled by the gay community, claiming on Twitter that he was "giving them credit for the power and influence they have." He did, however, acknowledge that he "misspoke" when he said the City Council Speaker Corey Johnson was married to another man.
What’s homophobic about saying that the gay community controls the nyc city council ? I’m giving them credit for the power and influence they have.
— Rev Ruben Diaz (@revrubendiaz) February 9, 2019
After rejoining the City Council in 2017 after 15 years in the State Senate, Diaz Sr. was appointed to committees on land use, public housing, and transportation. Those committee posts may now be in jeopardy, according to the speaker, who said he is "currently reviewing all potential disciplinary scenarios." Beyond stripping him of committee posts, it's unclear how Johnson would be able to force Diaz Sr.'s resignation; a spokesperson for the body did not return Gothamist's request for comment.
Diaz Sr., an ordained pentecostal minister and member of the Democratic party, has previously sparked controversy for his firebrand personality and conservative beliefs—including his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and recent support for convicted abuser Hiram Monserrate. Back in 2011, Diaz Sr.'s own granddaughter, Erica Diaz, accused him of outing her on television for his own political convenience. "I want him to know that every word he utters hurts his own blood," she later wrote.
Confronted by the NY Post on Sunday, Diaz Sr. went so far as to suggest that Albany, too, was controlled by homosexuals, before insisting that he could not be homophobic because he voted for Corey Johnson as Council Speaker and has gay family members. He then took to Twitter to reiterate his refusal to resign, noting that "the only ones that can ask me to resign are the residents of the 18th [district]."
To all of you out there who are asking me to resign. Sorry to disappoint you but You should Know that the only ones that can ask me to resign are the residents of the 18th C. D. and that will be on Nov. 2021. That’s why we have election!!!!
— Rev Ruben Diaz (@revrubendiaz) February 11, 2019
On Monday, State Committeewoman Amanda Farias announced that she has begun filing paperwork to challenge Diaz Sr. in 2021. The 28-year-old pro-choice and pro-marriage equality Democrat, who helped manage the Women's Caucus as a staffer to Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, said she could "no longer stand idly by and allow this behavior to represent my community and our city."
In 2017, Diaz Sr. fended off numerous primary challengers, including Farias, winning with 42 percent of less than 10,000 total votes. Farias came in second in that election, with 20.88 percent of the vote.
Gothamist's attempts to reach Diaz Sr. were not successful.