New York archbishop Timothy Dolan has invited Ruben Diaz Sr., the most outspoken opponent of the marriage equality bill pending in the state Senate, to discuss the issue on his radio show.
According to an announcement from the Diaz office, the senator will record an episode of the weekly radio show, A Conversation With the Archbishop, this afternoon at the New York Catholic Center. He and Dolan will discuss the marriage equality bill that could receive a vote in the legislature before it adjourns June 20.
"It is an honor for me as a senator and as a Pentecostal minister to be a welcome voice on Archbishop Dolan's national radio program to discuss efforts to redefine marriage to include a man and a man or a woman and a woman," said the Democrat in a statement. "I read on the Archbishop's blog that he has been greeted with a similar backlash of contempt by many who want our marriage laws changed. For example, he wrote about a group that waited for him after a Mass in Wisconsin shouting vicious chants and holding hateful signs with words I thought had gone the way of burning-crosses and white hoods."
The invitation arrives less than one week after New York State Catholic Conference director Richard Barnes posted a Facebook note that denounced the "hate purveyors" targeting Diaz for his stance. While the senator and some marriage equality advocates have a long history of acrimony, Barnes in particular condemned a gay erotica contest planned for Saturday in Brooklyn that makes Diaz the subject.
"It's horrible to see the bullying tactics and uncivil discourse that continue to be showcased in public and online just to get votes to change our marriage laws," continued Diaz. "Like Archbishop Dolan and like most Christians, I do not preach hatred. I am not anti-anybody. I am pro-marriage, and pro-life. I promote the teachings of Jesus and pray for those who hate. I look forward to today's radio discussion, and hope and pray that it will touch the hearts of all who listen."
Last weekend, Erica Diaz, the lesbian granddaughter of the senator, challenged him publicly for the first time in an interview with the New York Post, where she discussed the pain that his outspokenness causes her, her partner, and their two sons. A former member of the Navy discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, she had attended the rally Diaz hosted last month in the Bronx against marriage equality in the hope of confronting him.
Archbishop Dolan, who also serves as president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, did not attend the Rally to Protect Marriage hosted by Diaz May 15, but he did send a letter expressing his support for the "worthy cause." In March the archbishop gave an interview to 60 Minutes in which he compared allowing same-sex couples to marry to allowing him to marry his mother.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, did attend the May rally, which drew some 2,500 participants. Last month NOM announced that it planned to spend $500,000 on an ad and lobbying campaign in New York, where it also promised to spend $1 million in the 2012 election to reelect allies and unseat foes. New Yorkers United for Marriage, the coalition working to pass the marriage equality bill, could raise as much as $2 million in its effort.
While his vocal position makes him the face of marriage equality opposition to many New Yorkers, Albany watchers argue that Diaz has less ability now to affect the outcome of the vote than he did in 2009, when the bill failed in the Democratic-controlled state Senate. This year the coalition of five LGBT groups and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are working to pass the bill in a Republican-controlled senate, where they need at least six more votes from undecided Republicans and Democrats, not including Diaz, an avowed opponent of the legislation. In addition, polling indicates that a majority of Latino voters in New York and in the Bronx, who form the Diaz constituency, support the marriage equality bill, as do the majority of Latino lawmakers in the state.
A Conversation With the Archbishop airs Thursdays at 1 p.m. Eastern on Channel 129 on both Sirius and XM radio. Diaz will record his appearance in the late afternoon for airing on another date.
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