Erica Diaz, 22, is the les bian granddaughter of Albany's most outspoken gay-marriage foe -- state Senate Puerto Rican/Latino caucus chair Ruben Diaz Sr. She is also a former Navy seaman who left the military after revealing her sexuality. Here she explains the rifts the debate has caused her family.
This time it was not his words that hurt me. It was his silence.
My grandfather, state Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz, spoke about marriage equality on a Spanish radio station in April. He was joined on the airwaves by a priest who said, "Gay people are worthy of death."
I am the gay granddaughter of Albany's most outspoken marriage-equality opponent. Until now, out of love, I closeted my feelings about my family's patriarch, who has so vehemently denounced gay rights.
But my grandfather should know that as he continues to skewer the marriage-equality bill on the radio, television and in newspapers, I am listening and reading. And I've finally conjured the courage to stand up for what is right.
Last month, his face graced the cover of a newspaper announcing his May 15 rally against gay marriage. I uploaded a picture to my Facebook page and wrote, "Could you imagine how I feel?"
It's a feeling that's lingered throughout my life. As a teenager I concealed my nature. But I couldn't continue to live in silence.
I was 16 years old when I sat my mom down and told her I was a lesbian. She told me that she loved me and accepted me.
I feared my father's reaction most -- since he is the reverend's son. My mom told him for me, and he embraced me, too.
I never told my grandfather.
Three years later I was watching grandpa do a TV interview. "I'm not homophobic. I have gay family members. I have a gay granddaughter."
I was stunned that he outed me on the air, since I never spoke to him about it directly. So I marched myself to his church and sat him down in his office and told him that I was a lesbian.
"You're my granddaughter and I love you. I don't agree with it, but I respect you," he said.
When I was younger, marriage equality was not an issue for me. But now, as my grandfather ceaselessly and callously comments on the issue, each and every word stings, since I live with my girlfriend of 2½ years, Naomi Torres, and our two sons, Jared and Jeremiah Munoz.
This fight is personal.
My family deserves the same benefits as others. Naomi -- whom I would like to marry -- should be able to do things that straight married people take for granted, like make a decision for me if I'm sick.
And my grandfather has witnessed our love. At Christmas he lovingly played with our children.
But as he continued to ratchet up his rhetoric, something in me snapped. I decided to show up at his rally last month on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse so that he could face a person he loved, a person who was gay, as he spoke against us.
That day I waded through the religious crowd and saw children as young as mine say hateful things. "You're not God's child. One man, one woman. You're not living by God."
I was so nervous that morning that I threw up. I spoke against him across the street, directly within his view.
But then I approached a police officer who escorted me to the podium where he spoke. My grandfather introduced me to the crowd and kissed me on the forehead. "This is my granddaughter," he said. "She chose her way of life, but I chose God's way, but I love her."
Grandpa even called me after the rally, to say that he was proud of me for "respectfully speaking up for what you believe in."
You cannot tell someone that you love them and stay silent when people call for their death. "Love" is empty when you say someone's life isn't natural.
He could quietly vote "no" if that's what he believes is right. But I want him to know that every word he utters hurts his own blood.
As told to Candice M. Giove