Saturday, August 14, 2010

Three Latino candidates oppose marriage equality as they seek statewide office in New York

[UPDATED BELOW] New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. is certainly not the only homophobe in the state legislature and it took more than his one vote to sink the state's marriage equality bill back in December of 2009. Nevertheless, the Reverend has certainly emerged as the most visible symbol when it comes to the issue - and one of the top targets for LGBT-rights advocacy groups such as Fight Back New York.

The sometimes outsized attention given to the man - including on this very blog - speaks to his ability to flaunt his fundamentalist homophobia as a legislator and get away with it.  But it also overshadows the views of other state legislators who are just as homophobic... as well as those who hold similar views and are seeking state-wide office.

The later is the case with Miguel EstrellaLuis Sepulveda, and Héctor Rámirez, all of whom are running for separate seats in the NYS Assembly.

A long-shot by any stretch of the imagination, Miguel Estrella (pictured) is one of six candidates vying for an open seat in the 72nd Assembly District in Upper Manhattan.  Mr. Estrella caught my eye through coverage of his race in newspapers from the Dominican Republic, his native country.

Take this excerpt from an August 12th article in Primicias in which they fawn over the "charismatic emerging leader":
Miguel Estrella, candidate for state assembly district 72, which covers parts of Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill, opposes marriage between homosexuals.

"As a politician who is concerned about the well-being of the family, I understand we must pay careful attention to the integral cell of society.  Marriages between couples of the same-gender cannot produce children and, thus, break up the chain of procreation mandated by the Bible which makes it a requirement to 'be fruitful and multiply'", said  the political leader.
"To defend marriages between people of the same gender would send the wrong message to new generations; which would lead to the norm of accepting these unions as something which is normal, which it isn't, because people of the same gender cannot procreate," continued the charismatic emerging leader.
However, he said that as an assemblyman, he will equally represent all sectors [of society], guaranteeing and respecting - as is customary in our society - the constitutional rights of all sectors [of society].
Although he immediate said: "I will fight with all my might so that New York won't pass a law of this nature, and will fight with all institutions that are against this aberration."
Oh, joy! Another Bible-thumping politician calling our relationships an "aberration" is exactly what we need, right?

Luckily, the lead candidate in the race, Guillermo Linares, has a storied history in New York City politics as the first person from the Dominican Republic to be elected to political office in the United States when he became a New York City Councilmember in 1991.  In 2004 he was appointed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the NYC Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs.  Now, as he seeks office once again, Linares has picked up the backing of openly lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID).

I have found no mention anywhere of whether Estrella has any allegiances to Reverend Diaz, although it wouldn't surprise me. That's certainly not the case when it comes to Luis Sepúlveda, who is trying to unseat Democratic Assemblymember Peter M. Rivera in the 76th Assembly District in the Bronx.

This two and a half minute clip is an excerpt from an Aug. 13th segment that ran on "Pura Politica" on Time Warner Cable's NY1 Noticias.  In addition to Sepúlveda, Miosotis Muñoz who is running in the 32nd Senate District in Upper Manhattan; and Julissa Gómez, who is running in the 72nd Assembly District (the same district as Estrella and Linares, as discussed above).

Here I have to stop and highlight the fact that both Muñoz and Gómez back marriage equality even though, just like Sepúlveda, they are first time candidates for their specific seats and running in heavily Latino - and presumably overwhelmingly Catholic districts - in New York City.

Sepúlveda, on the other hand, fidgets and seems uncomfortable with the issue, even as he ultimately admits he'd vote 'no' on marriage equality when he is pushed on the issue by anchor Juan Manuel Benitez.

What's interesting is how he tries to argue that the support he has received from Reverend Diaz is incidental and came only after he launched his campaign. He also initially tries to get away with having a 'wait-and-see' attitude on the issue of marriage equality. He tried the same tack on an English-language debate show without being challenged (courtesy of NGblog)...

"The height of hypocrisy" the host says. And Peter Rivera couldn't have put it better! It's a cop-out. What is there to 'get' about a marriage EQUALITY bill?

Amazingly, NG also pointed to this audio clip from March of 2010 in which Sepúlveda actually said he was FOR marriage equality less than five months ago!

At the 28:25 mark:
I am for marriage equality. I'm ah, eh, I teach constitutional law courses, ah, and I know that it's eventually gonna happen.  The problem is that, emotionally, we are not ready for that. But ultimately... it will come down to an equal protection violation and, you know, I don't see, you know, the decision in 2006 by the Court of Appeals, you know, that they... the holding that marriage... same-sex marriage somehow was going to be to the detriment of children, that ah, that that was the reason why the court upheld the ban on marriage equality.

You know, it doesn't hold water. I think Judge Kaye's dissent will ultimately rule the day and you'll have marriage equality. But we still have to get over that... that emotional barrier that we have because, in my readings of constitutional law, court cases, you know, that case was lost on the way the court - the standard review of the court used - ah - you know, rather than using a compelling reason for the state to have this kind of policy, they use a rational basis, which made it easier for the State to say "Look, this is..." "There is no constitutional provision here allowing you to do this and so we, you know, are gonna accept the reason proffered that marriage equality won't protect our children."

That's the basis, the sole basis the court took when I look at that decision.
As in the interviews I posted above, Sepúlveda goes on to voucher for Reverend Diaz and argue that his views don't have anything to do with the fact he worked for the Senator. That might have held more water if he hadn't flipped-flopped on marriage equality since that March interview.  Particularly painful now is to hear him talk about having two gay brothers, one of whom died of AIDS in 1994, and vouch for his surviving gay brother's right to marry his partner (at the 31:45 mark)...
I loved my brother who passed away, and I love my brother now. And he is in a relationship and, you know, there are certain things that come with a relationship, ahm, you know, and I, I... from my experiences, ah, there's nothing to tell me that my brother should not be allowed to marry his partner, ahm, should not be allowed to inherit from his partner, should not be allowed to get certain rights that come from marriage. That, you know, that and coupled with my knowledge of constitutional history tells me that, you know, ultimately, you are gonna have marriage equality in the state of New York.
Come to think of it, didn't the Reverend also say he had two gay brothers? It boggles the mind how Diaz and Sepúlveda can turn their backs on their own brothers based on fundamentalist homophobic convictions or mere political calculation.

Finally tonight, there is this clip from Friday's edition of "Pura Politica" featuring another two additional Dominican candidates to the New York State Assembly running this year: Héctor Rámirez and Ariel Ferreira.

Running to unseat Nelson Castro, the NYS 86th District Assemblyman, Héctor Rámirez thinks he can also get away with muddling his stance on marriage equality by saying he supports "civil unions" which, of course, are not and would not be in play if he reaches the state assembly. As with Sepúlveda, Juan Manuel Benitez doesn't let Rámirez get away at just that and presses on.  Lo and behold, Rámirez invokes his upbringing in a Catholic family to say that nope, he would not vote in favor of marriage equality.

Although not an incumbent, Rámirez - if you should know - has received endorsements by the Bronx Democratic Party, the influential 32BJ union, the Working Families Party and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. - the Reverend's son - despite his vows to oppose marriage equality.  That might have to do with the ever swirling accusations of corruption surrounding Castro but it's a shame they'd all be willing to endorse someone who is against equality.

As with Muñoz and Gómez above, it is great to see a young Latino candidate like Ariel Ferreira stand up for marriage equality as someone who was also raised in a Catholic family.  Ferreira, who is also of Dominican descent, might have a tough road ahead in defeating legendary Assemblymember Danny Ferrell in Harlem's 71st Assembly District this year. But he might have a bright political career ahead of him.

UPDATE: Again, this is not to be an exhaustive list, but ad a fourth Latino candidate who is opposed to marriage equality to the list.

Richard LaSalle was born in East New York but says he comes from a Latino background.  He is running as a Republican candidate for the 13th Senate District and faces the humongous task of unseating pro-marriage equality Democratic Senator José Peralta.

Talking to Javier Castaño, a former editor of the defunct Spanish-language newspaper HOY who now publishes a local free Spanish-language newsweekly called Queens Latino, LaSalle assails Peralta as follows:
"Peralta has voted in favor of homosexual marriage three times, but in his district, the majority of voters do not agree with gay marriages."

He doesn't stop there. He boasts he is prepared to spend half a million dollars from his own pocket to unseat Peralta (trust me, I live in the district and it doesn't really show) and stabs those who have endorsed him in the back.

His campaign site says he's gotten the backing of the Queens County Republican Party, the Queens County Conservative Party, the Fellowship Republican Club and the Frank Kenna Republican Club.  What does he have to say about running as a Republican, though?
"I registered as a Republican to scare the Democrats, even though I don't believe in [political] parties because they all do it for power and for money."
Ah! Good luck with that, bud!  The article is not available online as far as I know but it ran in the September 2010 edition of the paper.

Related (up and coming pro-gay NYS Assembly candidates mentioned in this blog post):
  • Ariel Ferreira's Facebook page here
  • Miosotis Muñoz' Facebook page here
  • Julissa Gómez Facebook page here

1 comment:

NG said...

Diaz not only has a two gay brothers, but people on his staff who are also gay.

One of them is Christopher Lynn.

I've been waiting for days for Christopher to explain why he would support a bigot like Diaz, but you know how that goes.

Like most gay activists, Christopher is too much of a coward to own up to his own accountability and transparency.

But then, so are most activists.

The sad part is that it is possible to beat these people and vote them out of office but there has to be a quid pro quo. Activists need to do more than just hold fundraiser and set up ActBlue pages and some of us latino's need to get out from the Dark Ages.