Diaz Family Values

While Rubén Díaz Sr. lobs bombs against gay rights, son Rubén Jr. and lesbian granddaughter Erica run for cover

But it was also scheduled for the Sunday of Bronx Week, during the Bronx Puerto Rican Day parade, outside his son's office. Junior's office first discovered Senior was doing this when the Voice called and asked them how they felt about it.

Junior's office tried to contain the fallout by distancing itself from Senior, saying Junior would not be attending the anti-gay marriage march because of a scheduling conflict. It also stressed that the march was not part of Bronx Week.

Yet as the date approached, a very different picture emerged. Blogger Joe "Joe. My. God." Jervis called Junior's office the Friday before the big march: "The young woman answering the phone at Borough Hall got a bit flustered with me and claimed that her office had nothing to do with the rally and that she had no information about police protection or counter-protesting areas. (This, despite the fact that tens of thousands of evangelical Christians are expected to descend on the area in just four days.)" The office had told the Voice similar things days earlier.

C.S. Muncy
Ruben Díaz Sr. marching arm-in-arm with National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown (right) in the Bronx.
C.S. Muncy
Ruben Díaz Sr. marching arm-in-arm with National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown (right) in the Bronx.

Yet on the Sunday of the event, it appeared inconceivable that Junior's office could not have known anything or made any preparations. There were banks of speakers 10 feet high, belting out "We are here to preserve traditional marriage," from the steps of Junior's office, the Bronx County Courthouse. Scores of cops swarmed below. The area on the steps was being run by an outfit called the Hispanic Clergy Organization, which had been allowed to decorate Junior's front porch in advance of Senior's messianic arrival.

When he arrived, he brought more than a thousand people hailing him. Their revulsion at gay people was on full display in their signs, which ranged from the trite ("Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve!") to the absurd ("Don't Let New York City Become Sodom and Gomorrah!").

And hanging over the festivities from the Courthouse itself was a sign proclaiming that it was Bronx Week.

By not stopping his father from parading under that sign, Junior admitted who was boss. The Borough President's stamp of approval appeared over the event, whether he liked it or not, and wedded him to that hate march. The sign provided a government stamp of approval to the religious hatred being spewed by speakers and collapsed any difference between Díaz the father and Díaz the son. Junior never issued a statement denouncing the anti-gay rhetoric shouted outside his office that day.

Erica Díaz said that she believed on that day that her uncle supported her. But though the Puerto Rican Parade was cancelled because of rain—the event that ostensibly had been keeping Junior away from the march—he still did not show up to back either his niece or his father.

Junior had, once again, tried to have it both ways.

Across the street from the blaring speakers was a small band of counter-demonstrators, about two dozen at most. With 45,000 people in Central Park at the AIDS Walk at the same time, it had been hard to peel off much gay political activist support up in the Bronx.

Yet small as their numbers are, there was a person among them who represented the inevitable future of gay marriage rights in America: 22-year-old Erica Díaz.

Erica has already lived through many of the battles of the gay rights struggle in her young life. Like her grandfather, she'd joined the armed services, enlisting in the Navy. But when rumors began circulating that she was a lesbian, rather than living in fear she outed herself to her commanding officer.

Within 30 days, she was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Erica says.

She has been with her girlfriend, Naomi Torres, for two and a half years, and they already have two children together. But they are unable to wed, largely because of the efforts of her paternal grandfather.

On this day, Erica came out to protest Senior's march. Her body language belied her nervousness, and she later wrote that she'd vomited beforehand. Christopher Lynn stopped defending Senior long enough to say that when he heard the march was occurring at the same time as the AIDS Walk, he "called him up and said, 'What are you doing? This looks really shitty! I'm HIV-positive, and this looks really shitty!' And he said he didn't mean to do it at the same time, and I said, 'Why don't you move it?!' "

As much as Lynn might have wanted to believe his friend, whose record on HIV/AIDS he defends, this is the second time Senior has held an anti-gay rally the same time as the AIDS Walk. Even Lynn admits that he worried about how the senator can whip people up into hysterics.

"When you hold an event, and there are seen and unforeseen circumstances, you have to be prepared to take responsibility for those circumstances," he says. "You can't just shrug your shoulders."

But if the date annoyed Lynn, the whole event must have been devastating to Erica. "It hurts," she admitted, while maintaining that "I respect my grandfather."

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