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Monday, February 2, 2009

GAX in the Bronx on Sen. Diaz, Gay Marriage and the Right to Choose

Ed. note: Commentary on the Bronx News Network represents the opinion of the author/broadcaster and not necessarily that of the Bronx News Network.

30 comments:

  1. Assemblyman Michael BenjaminFebruary 3, 2009 at 4:58:00 PM EST

    Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr, does represent the views of his constituents. whether you agree or disagree with him on the issues, Sen. Diaz has consistently informed his constituents of his views on abortion and gay marriage. As a result, a mojority of primary voters and voters in the subsequent general election, re-elect him as their state Senator.

    Under the law, woman is entitled to choose to abort her unborn child during the first trimester. (with or without family planning counseling). Minor women can obtain an abortion without parental consent. Women, in general, can obtain an abortion with informing the father of the unborn child. In essence, Sen Diaz is correct to call that "abortion-on-demand."

    His opposition to gay marriage is not some outlier position, Most people disapprove of gay marriage. Opposition to gay marriage does not mean those people want hold any animus towards homosexuals. Gay people are free to live together, to work, to go to school, etc. To many, the extension of the holy covenant of marriage to homosexual couples, is out of bounds. Sen. Diaz is most outspoken than most Bronxites. i commend him for standing up for his beliefs and those of his constituents.

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  2. Every elected offical knows the fallacy of governing by referendum. Therefore, it is of no signifance whether a majority approve or disapprove of gay marriage (which is, of course, an assumption that might or might not be true). If governance was determined only by the will of the majority, people who are historically underserved like the elderly and poor, people in ethnic mninorities, and those whose interests do not carry so-called majority rule would not-ever receive their just consideration in our democratic society.

    Therefore, the interests of the sizeable LGBT constituency in Sen. Diaz' district and in the Bronx must receive proper support from all of their elected officials.

    There's no point in debating the semantic of "abortion on-demand". The issue of a right to choose is not one that I nor any elected official can or should take away from a woman and in a borough where teen-age pregnancy is epidemic, it's an option that, unfortunately, must stay on the table.

    And, just to be clear, I didn't suggest that there is any animus involved, but was pointing out a dereliction of a legislator's responsiblity to identify and serve the needs of all constiuents regardless of what his personal beliefs are.

    In fact, we might be witnessing just such a transformation as many Bronx legislators are trying to get their just-appointed Senator to go outside her personal beliefs and represent the interests of her new constiuents in the fight for immigrant rights.

    One would think that if it's OK for Bronx officials (including Senator Diaz?) to insist that Senator Gillibrand represent the interests of immigrants (which might or might not be the prevailing view of a majority of NY State voters), then it's well within bounds to insist that Senator Diaz do the same when it comes to the interests of the LGBT community.

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  3. Gary, I applaud your commentary. Reverend Diaz has been consistent for decades with his anti-gay stance and religious based agenda. From the first time he came to mainstream media’s attention in 1994 proclaiming that the Gay Games in New York that year would spread AIDS in the city, to his resignation from the Civilian Complaint Review Board because of the constant protest from the LGBT community, to his attacks on the Harvey Milk School and his bussing in evangelical Christians from the tri-state area to stage a protest against gay marriage on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse, he has crusaded against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. And his stance on reproductive rights has been clear. And since becoming elected to public office he has not abided by the constitution’s “separation of church and state,” but has joined church and state in a union that benefits his religious and personal views.

    Assemblyman Michael Benjamin says, that he does represent the views of his constituents. I’m sure Reverend Ruben Diaz agrees. But they are not talking about the whole picture, because I am a constituent and he doesn’t represent my views. Nor does he represent the views of the thousands of LGBT people who live and work in the Bronx. He doesn’t represent the views of the thousands of youth and seniors and people of all ages who frequent the Bronx Community Pride Center, or the views of the straight and gay Bronxites who work on the staffs of elected officials, hospitals, clinics, community-based organizations, businesses and arts organizations in the borough.

    It’s embarrassing for the Bronx to have one of the most vocal homophobes in the country. And to have Michael Benjamin supporting him is astonishing. I knew Michael Benjamin as a supporter of the arts and diversity. He was on the board of the Point Community Development Corporation and even had a ceremony at BAAD! during his early days. BAAD! is a space that celebrates and embraces diversity which is the norm in society. The Bronx is made up of men, women, transgender people, people of all colors, ages and sexual orientations. Diversity isn’t a slogan or a politically correct word, but a reality of the world. Difference exists and it’s embarrassing to the Bronx to have elected officials working feverishly, spending public dollars and reciting hate-filled rhetoric to oppress any segment of their constituency. Even if there was just one gay person in the reverend’s district, he should be ashamed to put out anti-gay or anti-woman propaganda.

    But he is shameless.

    Ironically, the “separation of church and state” in the constitution was meant to protect religious freedom. So that people can practice whatever religion they want without interference from the state. It seems that Reverend Ruben Diaz has been pretty free, and uses that freedom to oppress others.

    But he will lose the fight against gay marriage. He may win a battle here and there, but he will eventually lose. I say this, because I look at the changes taking place in states all across the country. And these changes will lead to more changes. The reverend knows this which is why he is fighting so hard. He knows things are changing. So, the louder he shouts, the more energized I feel and the prouder I feel as a gay Latino man in the Bronx. I have seen the change in this borough that has come about because people like me care about ourselves and love our communities and our people more than Reverend Ruben Diaz can hate.

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  4. Thank you for your hard work and insights, Bronx News Network!

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  5. The price of living in a democracy is that the majority get what they want. And if a majority did not support Senator Diaz's stance, they should not have elected him.

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  6. How exactly does Assemblyman Benjamin conclude that the majority of people are against Gay Marriage? Has he spoken with a majority of New Yorkers? Or is he simply referring to one of may polls that have been conducted with various results both against and in favor of Gay Marriage, if so, perhaps the "all knowing" Assemblyman Benjamin should cite which poll he is using to justify his opinion.

    "the extension of the Holy covenant of marriage"? And there he goes again, perhaps it has not occurred to Assemblyman Benjamin that marriage is a civil contract conferred by the state? No, he must understand that since he voted against the Gay Marriage bill in the NYS Assembly...

    Or maybe Assemblyman Benjamin thinks that atheists are not entitled to the holy covenant of marriage as well?

    If however he thinks that non-believers are entitled to marriage rights but not gay people then Assemblyman Benjamin's views would certainly belie a certain kind of "animus towards homosexuals" now wouldn't it???

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  7. The price of living in a democracy was aptly stated by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato who said that "those individuals who are too smart to get involved in politics are punish by being governed by those who are dumber"...

    The fact that Reverend Diaz has gotten reelected has little next to nothing to do with how the "majority" feel about gay marriage. I am sure the people who voted for Rev. Diaz were not voting for him based on the gay marriage issue, more then likely they voted for him because he is a known quantity, i.e. name recognition, and reportedly a "Democrat". A fact that he should remember.

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  8. There's at least 2 big problems with assuming that the majority of Diaz' constituents agree with him on abortion or gay marriage or anything else:

    (1) we don't know that either of those was the deciding issue for voters. Did they agree with him on several other issues? Did they decide to vote for the Democrat?

    (2) We voters in the Bronx usually get little choice. The party sees that their candidate gets on the ballot, and tries to keep other candidates off (threatening or bribing potential candidates, challenging their petitions, etc.) I remember going to the polls one time and Guy Velella was on FOUR ballot lines. In un-democratic elections, we can't assume much common opinions between candidates and voters, sad to say.

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  9. In a 1964 speech at Notre Dame, New York State Governor Mario Cuomo made a great distinction in the separation of church and state. He did this with the aim to fight off the movement to vote against Catholic politicans who, although they personally maintain the beliefs of the Church, did not vote in that fashion. The debate today while different is similar. We can learn from these words:

    “In addition to all the weaknesses, all the dilemmas, all the temptations that impede every pilgrim's progress, the Catholic who holds political office in a pluralistic democracy, a Catholic who is elected to serve Jews and Muslims and atheists and Protestants, as well as Catholics, bears special responsibility. He or she undertakes to help create conditions under which all can live with a maximum of dignity and with a reasonable degree of freedom; where everyone who chooses may hold beliefs different from specifically Catholic ones, sometimes even contradictory to them; where the laws protect people's right to divorce, their right to use birth control devices, and even to choose abortion."

    "In fact, Catholic public officials take an oath to preserve the Constitution that guarantees this freedom. And they do so gladly, not because they love what others do with their freedom, but because they realize that in guaranteeing freedom for all, they guarantee our right to be Catholics: our right to pray, our right to use the sacraments, to refuse birth control devices, to reject abortion, not to divorce and remarry if we believe it to be wrong.” http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mariocuomoreligiousbelief.htm

    And so, it is clear that the Church and the State should remain separate, but that does not mean a persons beliefs have to change. Bravo, Gary!

    /Bronx Italian Spaceship

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  10. So -- Michael Benjamin commends Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr., a member of the Gang of Three, "for standing up for his beliefs and those of his constituents," and according to Mr. Benjamin, "Most people disapprove of gay marriage."

    Being that said, did Michael Benjamin take into consideration of Reverend Diaz, Sr's statement on the 1994 Gay Games, that New York City's support of the event lead to an increase in AIDS? This statement (among others) was made while on the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

    That statement (not to mention the other remarks he made about the Gay Games) is bigoted, small-minded, homophobic, pathetic AND downright Dark Aged!!

    And who are these "most people" that Michael Benjamin proclaim "disapprove of gay marriage?"

    Gee!! And did I read that Michael Benjamin held a ceremony at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance? How ironic and how convenient.

    BAAD is a performance space that supports diversity, free speech and expression --- and is run by an openly homosexual couple who are well-respected and loved by the very community they live and work in. I am a 42-year resident of that very community and I am a proud volunteer of BAAD.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Rice-Gonzalez' statement about diversity. Diversity is reality and people have fought, struggled and died for these rights: to live, work and exist wherever and whenever we please and not be bound by Jim Crow segregation nor double standards.

    Since Michael Benjamin commends Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. "for standing up for his beliefs and those of his constituents," I'll be mindful to keep my distance from Michael Benjamin, especially when it comes to supporting or voting for this man.

    -- R. Thomas.

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  11. Thank you to Gary for speaking out and standing up to the bully that is Reverend Ruben Diaz. To say his views are reprehensible is an understatement. It is the absolute height of irresponsibility for Diaz to use his position to create intolerance, divisiveness and hate. In my view, hate is the province of the lazy and ineffectual.
    Diaz's sexist and homophobic remarks and policy positions work to create an environment of fear, anxiety, darkness, and oppression. The hate he espouses functions as a weight that keeps his constituency down. Worse, he uses speech that could incite violence against already vulnerable people. This is an outrage.
    At a minimum, Diaz is an ineffective demagogue who wastes time spreading hate instead of dealing with the very serious issues facing the Bronx. He clearly has no respect for the doctrine of separation of church and state, is not a true Democrat (he supported Sarah Palin) and is certainly not a representative of all the people. Mostly, he is out of touch with the times and the remarkable current of healing and reconciliation that swept Barack Obama into office. He's an embarrassment and should be removed from office. The Bronx deserves so much better. For these reasons, it is particularly shameful that Assemblyman Michael Benjamin would leap to his defense.
    Hamid Razik
    Board member
    Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance

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  12. Assemblyman Michael Benjamin wrote:

    "Opposition to gay marriage does not mean those people want hold any animus towards homosexuals. Gay people are free to live together, to work, to go to school, etc. To many, the extension of the holy covenant of marriage to homosexual couples, is out of bounds."

    This assertion is illogical. On what basis does Rev. Diaz deny gay people the right to marry the person of their choice if not indeed through animus that renders gay people lesser-than status, second-class citizenship? I wonder how many straight people would find Diaz's position and Benjamin's support of it logical if these men were to substitute other groups for gay people? Try it out: Jewish people. Other non-Christians. Black people. Latino people. Insert the Other of your choice and see how it sounds to you.

    Out of bounds? How dare you! Thank you ever so much for declaring that my kind are "free" to do this or that, just like regular folks, just not officially marry the people we love.

    My friend Charles Rice-Gonzalez is correct. This is a fight that the conservative right will lose. We will have marriage equality one day, and people will come to realize that it does nothing to diminish the beauty of healthy heterosexual marriage and family life. Instead, it will serve to increase dignity, stability and happiness throughout society.

    Rev. Diaz and Assemblyman Benjamin are just going to have to step aside and watch it happen.

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  13. When elected officials take the oath of office, they vow to protect and defend the constitution. One of the components of that constitution is that the government shall not establish one religion.

    Issues around abortion and gay marriage are highly complex and personal. When a politician cannot separate his or her religious beliefs from the positions that he takes on such issues, then he or she is imposing (establishing) his or her religious beliefs on others, in violation of the constitution. Any politician who cannot maintain a separation of church and state is also violating their oath, and should be removed from office.

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  14. I think Charles Rice Gonzalez (above) has said it best: "we love our communities and our people more than Reverend Ruben Diaz can hate." Diaz is a misguided, myopic individual whose time - for a reign of hatred and ignorance - is up. Look toward the future and rejoice: we will overcome.

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  15. We, the gay community have the right to be equal in everyway. Ruben Diaz will just have to step aside because I know we will get to the alter and our marriages will be reconized everywhere like a straight couple. Remember, they never thought we have a AfroAmerican President and we did it. So we will provail with legal marriages too.

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  16. 1. I can never understand how ignorant mankind can be.First I don't understand how a gay couple whom want to marry destroy the sanctity of marriage,"THE STRAIGHTS DID THAT ONE TO THEMSELVES".
    2. What was all the commotion about having a Black President.So Rev you need to chill,there are more of US then there are of you!
    GOD LOVES ALL HIS CHILDREN!

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  17. Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr

    was very wrong in his statement, as a Senator it appears he was not representing his constituents, but representing his OWN views and the views he feels in church.

    He needs to either be a Rev. in church or represent the views of ALL his constituents in his 32 Senate District. So many people have called my office sadden by his commits. I have two people in my family who are gay, who lives in his district who have stated they will NEVER vote for him again. This also is coming from alot of familes in the Bronx River, Soundview, Castle Hill and Hunts Point areas.

    Senator Rev. Diaz you owe the community in your district a apology, these are people who have signed your DEMOCRATIC PARTY Petition for Senator this pass 2008 year.

    From someone you KNOW, who did respect you.

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  18. Hats off to Gary for the commentary, and to Charles for always speaking the truth. I remember walking with Charles and others outside of Rev. Diaz's own church before and after services, and standing across from Bronx County Courthouse amid thousands of evangelicals from all over. Our goals were very simple. We wanted folks to see us for who we were: their neighbors, their coworkers, their family. We wanted to let them know that the Rev. did not represent us and we were not going away. I think our goals are still the same today, except our strength and our resolve has only grown.

    Charles is right. Change is on the way. Mind you, I don't expect Rev. Diaz to change, so we'll need to do our part to replace him. Plain and simple. In the meantime, I hope Assemblyman Benjamin and his colleagues will stand with us against bigotry instead of with Rev. Diaz.

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  19. I'm curious Gary, did Planned Parenthood write what was on the paper you were reading from?

    What an absurd and completely biased posting. Your description of the 'process' of obtaining an abortion in this country may well be straight from the PP marketing materials, but lacks even a shred of accuracy. Yes, we have abortion on demand. If you have a hard time saying it - don't support it.

    I have no doubt that you have serious issues with Senator Diaz. He is a man of moral character willing to defend the value of human life despite mounting pressure from Democrats who sold their voice to the abortion industry in return for campign support.

    You summed up the idiocy of the would-be choice movement yourself by indicating that the Senator has NO CHOICE. You see, Gary REAL choice requires options - not conformity to the solution that YOU agree with. REAL choice requires providing support for women that don't CHOOSE TO KILL THEIR CHILDREN because some loon told them it was 'okay'.

    No, the freely elected Senator Diaz doesn't HAVE to support anything he doesn't agree with - and you can bank on the fact that he won't. That is how men and women of character properly represent the people who CHOSE them as their elected officials.

    Welcome to the Democratic process in action. Sometimes it actually works.

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  20. Thank you for your post on the Bronx News Network blog.

    Because this is an important discussion I'd like to invite you to be a guest on BronxTalk so it can be continued. I'll also invite someone from Planned Parenthood (or a similar organization).

    This way we can inform Bronxites on the various sides of the issue and at the same time give them an opporunity to weigh in on how they feel about it.

    To pursue it, please send me an email to gaxinthebronx@gmail.com.
    Thanks.

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  21. There are more gay families in the Bronx than in any other borough.

    What do you hear here? GAY or FAMILY. It depends on where your mind is and where your heart is.

    There are 3800 homeless youth in New York City. 2400 are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. Hugely disproportionate to the 10 per cent in the general population. Powerless kids get thrown away by their families. The street life is hellish but their families' values sent them there. One of these gay kids I work with, was told by his mom, "Because of you, the curse of God is on our house. You must go."

    Many people hide behind God and don't take responsibility for their own primitive consciousness and mean spirits.

    I take responsibility and pick up the pieces of lives shattered by homophobic parenting, pick these kids off the streets and teach them art and business. There are 100 safe beds for homeless LGBT youth. Help!

    It's not acceptable to speak against a people. We're all human beings. Prejudice and hatred breed violence and murder, and great harm to society. It's not a free expression of religion to destroy peoples' lives and families, their liberty and pursuit of happiness.

    Our numerous elected official bigots need to experience the words, "You must go."

    Gay families are not an impossibility, they are a present reality and a beautiful thing. It depends on where your mind is and where your heart is.

    Ben Stock of Brainpower
    Norwood, the Bronx

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  22. Does anyone know of an organized effort to get the Rev. out of office? I've been trying to find some sort of political club that's against him and has their own candidate to promote but so far I've had no luck. Thanks!

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  23. I forgot to add to the above comment that I don't consider the Espada family a good alternative. They need to go also. The Bronx needs new blood.

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  24. There are many rank and file Democrats who are pro-life and pro-traditional family. The Democratic Party has always been the party of working families. I am a Democrat because of a belief in an activist role by government to provide a safety net for the less fortunate and to protect workers and consumers. Issues like gay marriage and abortion should not define the Democratic Party.

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  25. It is jaw dropping to see where we are heading, not just as a borough, but as a nation. The serious pursuit of truth has turned into a pursuit of self gratification. Which reminds me of an old newspaper cartoon I once saw which read, "Welcome to hell...where nothing is wrong or right...just what works for you."

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  26. Democracry means what the major of the community wants.If the m,ajor of the crowd did not support Diaz's stand then they should have not elected him

    Moreover i love to thank the Bronx News Network for the hard work that they have always kept.

    Thanks again

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  27. Great blog and nice post I am trying to maintain a list of cute blogs. Thanks for nice collection of posts. I’m going to browse through these. it’s nice I can come and read your blog.
    ccna ccent

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  28. Love this site!

    Re.the above, sounds like "SEPERATE BUT EQUAL."

    And when it comes to women, people of all colors are bigots.

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  29. the day we see everyone as equals willnot be in our life time, its a dream but will never happen. Thank you for your blog.

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  30. Genesis 1: 27, 28
    27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
    28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it...

    The bible itself says it; God created men and women to be married and become one flesh and be fruitful. If men and men or women and women are to be married how are they going to procreate?? what are the values that our new generations are going to have? if gay marriage is approve then the gay population are going to grow, because is simply going to teach our young children that is ok to live like this. Senator Ruben Diaz and like many others are in their right to protest against this. We don't hate the gay population in the contrary we love them and that is why we want them to understand that is not right what they are doing. They are being blinded, its a sin to be gay, and only God can free them and save them. all they have to do is look for God, God is the answer, nobody is born that way, nobody.

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