Rubén Díaz Sr., the New York City Council member widely known for spewing homophobic rhetoric, has announced he is retiring from the council after losing his bid for Congress to out candidate Ritchie Torres.
“EVERYTHING HAS ITS END,” tweeted Díaz Sr., a former state senator. “After serious analysis, of which I spent in prayer with God, family, ministers and after a political analysis, I have made the decision to follow the example of my two sons. My biological son Ruben Diaz Jr., and my political son Marcos Crespo.”
Rubén Díaz Jr., borough president in the Bronx, announced earlier this year that he was ending his bid to become New York City's mayor in 2021. Crespo, a former New York State Assembly member and head of the Bronx Democratic Party, also announced this year that he was stepping down from both roles. Díaz Sr. will remain on the City Council until the end of next year, but he will not seek reelection.
Díaz Sr. finished third in the June Democratic primary to replace U.S. Rep. José Serrano, who is retiring, in New York’s 15th Congressional District, centered on the South Bronx. That race was likely won by fellow City Council member Ritchie Torres, a gay man. Absentee ballots are still being counted, so Torres is not yet the official winner, but he has a strong lead with 30.9 percent of the vote, followed by Michael Blake with 19.4 percent and Díaz with 14.8 percent.
Torres and Mondaire Jones, who won the Democratic primary in the neighboring 17th Congressional District, are likely to become the first out gay Black members of either house of Congress. Torres, who is of Afro-Latinx heritage, was the first out gay candidate to be elected to office in the Bronx when, in 2013, at age 25, he became the youngest member of the New York City Council.
Díaz, a Pentecostal minister, has a long history of homophobic rhetoric, and he is also deeply opposed to abortion rights and supportive of the stop-and-frisk policing strategy, which critics say has disproportionately targeted Black and Latinx people.
In 1994, he said New York should not host the Gay Games because athletes attending the event would spread HIV in the city and influence young people to become gay. He was reprimanded by fellow members of a police oversight board for this comment.
In 2003, Díaz Sr. tried to block expansion of Harvey Milk High School, which serves LGBTQ+ youth, claiming that it discriminates against straight youth. Then in 2011, he was the only Democrat in the state Senate to vote against marriage equality.
Last year, Díaz was unapologetic about comments he made on a Spanish-language radio program where he said the City Council is controlled by the “homosexual community” and that he felt unwelcome. He went on to launch smear campaigns against Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a gay man who is living with HIV.
His comments incited such a response that Díaz Jr. had to step in and denounce his father in February 2019, explaining, “NYC is a place where we celebrate our diversity and inclusivity. The LGBTQ community is unequivocally an essential voice in our City.”
Following the news of Díaz Sr.'s retirement, Torres said he is proud that the homophobe's tenure will come to an end.
"I cannot officially declare victory until the results are certified but I can announce that I have retired the politics of hate and fear in the Bronx. Happy Belated Pride!" Torres wrote.