Sunday, September 18, 2005

Fernando Ferrer's own "Leonora Fulani"?

Photo: Hispanic minister's anti-gay marriage rally in the Bronx, March 14, 2004. More photos, including those of our counter-demonstration, here.

Earlier this summer, as the Mayoral candidates sought the gay vote, they found themselves at Manhattan's LGBT Community Service Center for a mayoral forum. As some of us sat in the audience we noticed some flyers being passed around the room which attacked Fernando Ferrer for having supported the homophobic State Senator (and Reverend) Ruben Diaz, Sr. in Diaz' victorious 2002 Senate race. Those of us who had heard Ferrer talk passionately about his opposition to the Reverend's homophobic views, felt that the "anonymous" flyer was a crass attempt to tar Ferrer's considerable record on LGBT issues.

Yesterday, Mayor Mike Bloomberg pulled another one of those endorsements that have a greater symbolic impact than their actual worth: The Association of Hispanic Ministers, led by a Julio Mercado, appeared at a press conference in Brooklyn where they announced the endorsement alongside the Mayor. New York 1 has been carrying images from the press conference all day long and all major newspapers are reporting on it today. And, while the Post says that a website search for the organization did not bring back any results, the Times actually says that the group also endorsed Bloomberg in 2001.

Interestingly, the Post also reports that Bronx Assemblymember Ruben Diaz, Jr. (Reverend Ruben Diaz' son who is not as homophobic as his dad), while also calling into question the organization's existence, said that his father "intends to endorse Ferrer as leader of the New York Hispanic Clergy" (though the younger Diaz made an appearance at Thursday's Democratic Unity Rally where major political figures united in support of the Ferrer bid, the elder Diaz was one of the missing figures).

As in the 2001 elections, Bloomberg has sought and accepted the endorsement of the Independence Party, despite allegations that its leader, Leonora Fulani, has made anti-semitic remarks for which she has not appologized. His political calculation is that - while distancing himself from Fulani - he can actually benefit from being on the Independence as well as the Republican line when election day comes (though others, such as Hillary Clinton have simply refused their endorsement in the past). [
Late word is that Fulani might be actually removed from her post today]

If the Reverend Diaz and his New York Hispanic Clergy do decide to endorse Ferrer, it would pose a similar question on Ferrer's desk: Will he hold his nose and accept the potentially influential endorsement from the Reverend and his followers or simply say "No thanks?"

Though the Reverend ran for the Senate on the Democratic line, he has increasingly veered to the right and not only on gay issues (he supported Bloomberg in 2001 as well as the Iraq War). But the gay community in particular remembers that he was instrumental in defeating the Children of the Rainbow Curriculum in 1991 - which sought to instill respect for diversity accross the city schools - because 3 of its 500 pages focused on gay and lesbian families; his attempts as a former councilmember to ban the 1994 Gay Games claiming that the event would spread HIV accross the city; his pending 2003 suit against the City of New York over public funds given to the Harvey Milk School; and the lead role he played in staging a massive demostration against same-sex marriage last summer (photos here).

It is easy for certain politicians to express themselves against the Reverend because they do not necessarily come from or have a Latino constituency in the areas they represent and little risk of losing votes, so for Ferrer to have been vocally opposed to many of the Reverend's stands has been courageous. Other political leaders also characterize the Reverend as a fringe figure in State and City politics, which might be the case, but not when it comes to his standing in the Latino community. But accepting an endorsement from the Reverend would certainly dissapoint those of us who have defended Ferrer against charges that he supports the Reverends homophobic views.

As for the Reverend? Well, in an interview that many might miss because it runs in today's Spanish-language newspaper El Diario La Prensa, the Reverend is not necessarily talking endorsements yet but he does go on record on the issue:

"Biblically or spiritually," says Diaz, "neither [Ferrer or Bloomberg] have anything to offer... I supported Bloomberg because I thought he would do a better job, but he defrauded me specially for his actions against the city's elderly and on the issue of education."

The article goes to say that the Reverend "aknowledged that - on social issues - Fernando Ferrer's platform was closer to the interest of the community" and that, due with his disenchantment with Bloomberg, he believes that "Ferrer is the better option and that [the Reverend] has been sharing this sentiment with his organization's clergy."

Let's see if his son's comments to the Post come to fruition.


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