The son of a New York lawmaker who vehemently opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples on Wednesday announced he now supports nuptials for gays and lesbians.
“My decision, which comes after years of thought and reflection on the issue, is informed by the experiences I have had with close friends, family and loved ones,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., said in a statement.
The New York City Democrat cited his gay chief-of-staff Paul Del Duca, his partner and his lesbian niece, Erica Diaz, in his statement. He also noted the passage of New York’s same-sex marriage law in 2011.
“It is my contention that our city and our state are better off than they were before marriage equality became the law,” Ruben Diaz, Jr., said. “Not only has our city seen an incredible financial impact from marriage equality, the quality of life for myself, my family and my friends has not suffered one bit.”
Ruben Diaz, Jr.,’s statement came a day after his father, New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., spoke at a rally against marriage rights for same-sex couples on the National Mall as the U.S. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in a case that challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8.
Ruben Diaz, Sr., who is also an evangelical pastor, testified against the same-sex marriage bill before his Senate colleagues narrowly approved it in 2011. LGBT rights advocates in New York have repeatedly blasted him for describing homosexuality as unnatural and equating same-sex sexual activity to bestiality.
“This is not about my dad,” Ruben Diaz, Jr., told the Washington Blade when asked whether he spoke with his father before he announced his position. “This is about an evolution that I’ve had over the last few years. This is about seeing how marriage equality has had a positive effect in New York City and the state of New York.”
Ruben Diaz, Jr., whose office provided grants and other assistance to the Bronx Community Pride Center that closed last year, in 2007 voted against a same-sex marriage bill while he was a member of the state Assembly.
He told the Blade his position on the issue since then has evolved in the same way President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others’ have.
“There are still people who are on the fence,” Ruben Diaz, Jr., said. “There are still people who against it today and hopefully we should hope for that those folks at some point get right on the issue as well.”
Political observers in New York with whom the Blade spoke said the Bronx Democrat’s announcement will have little impact.
“Once the president has come out to support gay marriage and once New York State has approved of it, what’s the point of coming out in support of gay marriage,” Juan Manuel Benítez of NY1 Noticias said. “It’s a non-issue politically in the state of New York at this point. And had he wanted to have an impact with his announcement, he could have come out in support of gay marriage when his dad was voting against it in the state Senate when it really did matter back two years ago.”
Gerson Borrero, a columnist for the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario La Prensa, said he feels Ruben Diaz, Jr., announced his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples because he has aspirations to run for city-wide political office. He described the announcement to the Blade as a “hypocritical, opportunistic move,” while adding he should speak out against his father’s anti-gay rhetoric.
“If he’s really for the equality of all human beings, than let him start denouncing every pronouncement—disgraceful pronouncements and hateful pronouncements that his father has made,” Borrero said. “When he does that, then we can believe in Rubencito.”
Ruben Diaz, Sr., did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment.