Sampson Skips Diaz Sr. Fund-raiser

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com August 13 2010 10:00 AM ET

New York state senate majority leader John Sampson, under fire from gay activists for his support of Democratic colleagues who voted against marriage equality, did not attend a re-election fund-raiser for state senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. on Thursday.

Sen. Sampson lent his name as a cohost of the fund-raiser, which activist group Queer Rising protested on a dreary late afternoon in the Bronx. Organizer Natasha Dillon told The Advocate that Sampson did not show, and that the only state senator seen was the troubled Pedro Espada, Jr., who faces a strong primary challenge and is under state and federal investigation.

Dillon said that Diaz tried to avoid the protesters.

“Diaz Sr. attempted to sneak in the back door, but one of our members saw so he came through the front door,” she emailed.


Late Friday afternoon, Queer Rising released a video of protesters
yelling "Shame!" as Diaz entered the fund-raiser. Watch it below.

A Sampson spokesman said that the senator had a prior engagement, but that his nonappearance does not indicate wavering support for Diaz.

“The senator had a previous commitment which had taken him out of New York City for the day,” said Austin Shafran.

Sampson, a senator from Brooklyn, faced a boisterous reception Saturday at a brunch with the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City. Attendees demanded to know how Sampson could express support for marriage equality while supporting the reelection bids of Diaz and Shirley Huntley of Queens, two Democrats who voted against the marriage equality bill that failed by a wide margin last year. Stonewall and other groups, including the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign and Marriage Equality New York, support the Diaz and Huntley primary challengers, who are for equality.

Sampson, who voted for the marriage equality bill, insisted on the imperative to maintain and grow the Democrats’ slim 32-30 majority before taking another vote, for which he refused to provide a timeline.