New York City Council member Ruben Diaz Sr., a longtime outspoken homophobe, is facing calls for an apology and even resignation after saying the city is "controlled by the homosexual community."
Diaz, a former state senator, made the remark last week on a Spanish-language radio program, El Desahogo (The Relief), reports cable news outlet NY1.
"When I get to the City Council, I find that the City Council is controlled -- most council members out of 51 council members -- over there, everybody is controlled by the homosexual community," he said. He also said Council Speaker Corey Johnson is a gay man married to another man, a comment, coming from Diaz, is not a positive one (Johnson is gay, by the way, but he is single). Diaz has sparred with Johnson over committee appointments.
Johnson has demanded an apology from Diaz, a Pentecostal minister from the Bronx who was elected to the council in 2017 after a long tenure in the New York Senate, where he was well known for his opposition to marriage equality. Diaz was one of the few Democrats to take such a stand.
"Council Member Diaz Sr.'s homophobic comments are offensive to both the Speaker and the body, and have no place in New York City," said a statement issued by a Johnson aide. "He should apologize to all of his colleagues, and the entire LGBTQ community."
The council's LGBT Caucus and Women's Caucus released a joint statement Sunday calling for Diaz's resignation. "We are appalled by Council Member Ruben Diaz, Sr's most recent hateful remarks about this body, Speaker Corey Johnson and the greater LGBTQ community," the statement reads. "This is by no means the first time Council Member Diaz has attacked LGBTQ people. From his opposition to marriage equality to his denigration of transgender individuals, he has made many outrageous statements about our families, our neighbors, and our lives over the years.
"Just last month, the Women's Caucus Co-Chairs condemned Council Member Diaz for his disgusting comments during a rally in opposition to the Reproductive Health Act. [Editor's note: Diaz referred to abortion as "assassination" at the rally against the act, which loosens abortion restrictions in the state.] Council Member Diaz's comments this week show that he is only doubling down on offensiveness and bigotry.
"We demand he resign from his position effective immediately. It is time that we stick by the pledge we have made to our communities that hate and fear have no place in New York City. Furthermore, we call upon the NYC Council Committee on Standards and Ethics to open an investigation into this matter and act swiftly. All New Yorkers, especially Council Member Diaz's LGBTQ constituents, need to know that such hate has no place in our city."
Even Diaz Sr.'s son and namesake, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., has called for an apology. Diaz Jr., who has often differed with his father's positions on LGBTQ rights and abortion, sent this tweet Saturday:
But Diaz Sr. is refusing to apologize. "People don't want me to speak the truth," he told the New York Post Sunday. "They not only control City Council, they control the politics in the state." He also said the fact that he voted for Johnson to be speaker shows he's not homophobic.
Diaz added that he'd rather give up his committee appointments than apologize. Johnson told the Post he's considering that issue.