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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Anti-Gay NY State Senator Leads Rally; Lesbian Granddaughter Counter-Protests

Rubén Díaz, Sr.
Rubén Díaz, Sr. 
By Kilian Melloy -

The struggle for marriage equality is all about allowing gays and lesbians to marry the person they love--the significant other and life partner with whom they expect to remain, in supportive commitment, until death. But sometimes the issue tugs at families, as well, as when parents reject gay children, siblings refuse to acknowledge a same-sex in-law, or generations disagree about the very right of gays and lesbians to enter into matrimony with a person of the same gender.

There have been high-profile instances of family members departing from what a famed relative has to say about the issue. Usually, the famous relation is against legal parity for gays and their families: Such was the case when Cindy McCain (the wife of Ariz. Sen. John McCain, who argued strenuously against the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," and who opposes marriage equality) lent her support to the NOH8 campaign, a marriage equality effort. Similarly, daughter Megan McCain has been a pro-family parity advocate.

New York resident Barbara Bush, the daughter of former president George W. Bush, has also been an advocate for marriage equality--despite her father’s famous (or infamous) public support for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that would deny legal marriage to same-sex families.

Now, another story from New York illustrates once more the generational divide between the older, anti-gay set and their accepting offspring--in this case, the lesbian granddaughter of a tireless anti-gay crusader, New York State Sen. (and Pentecostal pastor) Rubén Díaz, Sr.

NY1 reported on May 16 that Erica Díaz was among counter-protestors who showed up at a May 15 rally in Manahattan to counter an event that same day in The Bronx that had been put together by anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage. NOM is a Mormon-affiliated group that has spend millions of dollars around the country to roadblock--and, in Maine and California, roll back--the legal rights of gay and lesbian families.

Rubén Díaz, Sr. was a leader at the anti-gay rally. He had led similar rallies before: Two years ago, as then-Gov. David Paterson pushed for a State Senate vote on a bill that would have extended marriage equality to New York families--a bill already approved on multiple occasions by the State Assembly--Díaz headed up opposition to the bill.

NOM, for its part, has launched a fresh volley of threats targeting New York state lawmakers if they dare to vote for marriage equality in the event that a bill makes its way before them once more.

"We spent over half a million dollars in New York," boasted the president of NOM, Brian Brown, recently of the national group’s involvement in the state’s highly publicized handling of the issue two years ago, "and we’re ready to spend that and more this time. We are willing to spend a million against any Republican senator who votes for gay marriage."

NOM funded a successful 2009 campaign to recall marriage equality at the ballot box in Maine, and was also a major player in the bitterly divisive 2008 campaign in California to rescind the then-existing right of gay and lesbian families in that state to marry. California voters, told that young children would be taught about homosexuality in schools unless marriage equality was revoked, narrowly approved Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution in a manner that yanked marriage rights away from same-sex couples.

Proposition 8 was later found to be unconstitutional in a federal court challenge. That verdict is now under appeal.

The struggle over Proposition 8 three years ago may have been bitterly divisive, but on May 15, in The Bronx there was also a ray of filial sunlight when Erica Díaz joined her grandfather on the platform where he was speaking. Embracing her, Díaz told the crowd, "This is my granddaughter, and I love her."

Erica Díaz told NY 1, "He’s my grandfather and I respect that he’s so firm in what he believes in.

"However, I have my own opinions on this issue," the young woman added. "I believe that everyone deserves a chance to exercise their human rights and marry the person they love."

Even as NOM and Díaz were in the streets declaring that gays marrying one another is contrary to "family values," another stripe of conservatives--dedicated to smaller, less intrusive government, and to the maximization of individual freedoms and responsibilities--was at work in New York: A group of GOP donors has contributed $1 million to a new group dedicated to making marriage equality a reality in New York.

Among the wealthy, conservative-leaning donors, who are known for their support of Republican causes, was hedge fund manager Paul E. Singer, who is also the chair of conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute. For Singer, "family values" means just that: His interest in family parity for gay and lesbian families stems from having an openly gay son who is married to his same-sex life partner and lives in Massachusetts, where, seven years ago, the first legal marriages in America were granted.

"Mr. Singer is coordinating much of the Republican fund-raising for same-sex marriage in New York, according to people familiar with the matter, donating $425,000 of his own money and personally soliciting an additional $500,000 in donations," the New York Times reported on May 13. "At the same time, he has hosted private meetings to make the case for legalizing gay weddings in New York to other conservatives."

Nationwide, support for marriage equality has been markedly growing in recent years, especially among younger voters.

Kilian Melloy is EDGE Media Network’s Web Producer and Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes aggregate news stories and commentary for EDGE.

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