Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest post: An interview with Roland Palencia, pt. 2

PHOTO [L to R]: Roland Palencia next to recently elected Equality California Board Members Dolores Huerta and Rabbi Steven Jacobs.

This is the second part of a two part interview my friend Gloria Nieto conducted a few days ago with incoming Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia.  In Part 1 (click here), Palencia discussed his Guatemalan background and the violence that marked his youth, his coming out experience as a college student, and his extraordinary history of activism in the Latino LGBT and HIV prevention community of California.

In this segment of the interview, Palencia discusses the role of Equality California in other progressive social justice issues.  He also touches on President Barack Obama's "evolving" views on marriage equality and the pros and cons of challenging Proposition 8 in the immediate future.

We pick up where we last left off. Palencia is discussing Equality California's failed efforts to defeat Proposition 8 at the ballot and some of the "No on Prop. 8" campaign shortcomings...
GLORIA NIETO: Well this brings me to my next question. What can you do to heal what has happened between the campaign and Equality California? What are you going to do to heal this gigantic rift which I believe needs to be recognized? And how can you change the perception of others in the state who feel the same? Because you have a board where you have to pay to play. It is not representative. As much as I love Dolores Huerta, she is not my representative. To me there are problems in terms of communication and representation [Huerta, pictured above, is the co-founder of United Farm Workers of America and was recently nominated to the Equality California board of directors].

ROLAND PALENCIA: No, those are real issues. I think the fact that I have been involved in the community for so long [means] I understand some of the issues. I want to meet with people. I want to hear what people have to say. I want to have a conversation. How do we integrate activists more in to the organization and figure out a way so that is a part of what we do? The reality is that we don’t have a common conversation. We don’t have a language we can in some ways that we can converse around. You know what I am saying?

GN: Yes.

RP: So we are going to have create that, little by little or however it takes. There’s a question of access. Who has access. What kind of resources? What kind of decision making? I think that is going to be an issue that we really have to think about. The other thing is I really want to create a different framework in terms of how we approach our community engagement. By that I mean we need to take up issues that matter to all of our communities.

For instance, health care. I have been involved in health care. We have to expand our notion of what community issues are. I think marriage is definitely an important issue. It is a critical one. In addition to it being a civil rights issue, it is an economic issue. We know that families that are legally protected also have a better chance of being economically stable, especially those families with children. So we have to frame this as a civil rights issue but also as an economic justice issue.

We need to take up other issues that hugely impact our communities and I mean all our communities. Health care is definitely one. Access to affordable health care is a big issue in our community. We have an opportunity with health care reform to create alliances and to create coalitions that have one goal. That one goal is to create access to affordable health care. Right now the state of California got $10 billion to do a program over the next three years called Bridge to Reform.

GN: I am on the board of the Santa Cruz Women’s Health Center so I am really aware of that program.

RP: So you know that one of the goals is to enroll 500,000 people before 2014. I think we need to be part of those efforts. We need to demonstrate our competence in other areas that impact. That’s one approach that I think is going to help to definitely start creating coalitions. Health care will impact women, people of color, single gay men, married LGBT couples. I mean you name it. There are close to 7 million Californians who do not have health care. I mean that’s a huge number of people affected. This is rich with opportunities for coalition work and to provide palpable benefits to our communities.

Another one is education. There are issues I need to vet with the board. We know that education is the big equalizer or at least has the potential to be. We also know that having access to higher education is a seminal experience for LGBT people. Most of us came out in college where we were able to get away from our families a little bit, from our traditional settings, rural, urban, what have you. We started to find people like us, people we could relate to in a number of ways. So for many of us, we came out in college. Obviously, kids are coming out a lot earlier. Aside from the fact that it is an economic justice issue to have access to an affordable, quality education, it is also part of our movement. It is where we shape our identities as activists many times. So this whole thing that is going on with the community colleges, 400,000 fewer students are going to be able access community colleges in the fall of 2011. I think that is like a stake through the heart of our movement. That means 400,000 fewer students are not going to have access to an education. This will have an economic impact and I think this is an economic justice issue.  But also in terms of activism, it really will deplete our troops. We have to start linking these things. We have to start looking at the fact that all these things are connected. All these things impact us in terms of civil rights and economic justice.

The other thing is I think, that and the reason why I am saying civil rights and economic justice we have to create a movement that is not only about civil rights. It is definitely about civil rights. But it is about economic justice. If we don’t take care of the economic justice part of it, we will have an incomplete civil rights movement. I think that one of the reasons why we still have a Latino underclass and an African American underclass and poor, white underclass is because we haven’t really dealt with the issues of economic justice. I think we need to go beyond the civil rights issues.

GN: You are making me cry. This is where so many of us live, having a commitment to full social justice. When the Arizona law first got passed,(SB 1070, anti-immigrant bill) I wrote something for Karen Ocamb’s blog (LGBT POV). I just got attacked with people saying immigration is not an LGBT issue. I am just wondering, what are you going to do? I don’t know that the organization is prepared.

RP: By the way, I don’t start the job until July 5th so I am just starting to figure these things out. But I know for a fact that they have a Beyond Borders outreach program. Part of that is to start educating the community on immigration issues, to start getting activists sharing with each other and to do coalition work. Equality California got a lot of flak for opposing the Arizona law. They got a lot of hate mail. I think that is a good sign. Immigration is a civil rights and economic justice issue. We have to frame in that way. It is a civil rights issue because the rights of people are being trampled upon. No human being is illegal. That is such a demeaning and dehumanizing term. But also it is an economic justice issue. Our economy depends a lot on that labor. We have a consumer society that loves cheap things, inexpensive things.

We, in some ways, are conspirators to having undocumented labor. The only way the system can produce what consumers want is if we lower the wages of those people who produce those things whether it is here in the US or outside. And we are saying “Fine.” If all of us benefit from having less expensive food and clothing, from less expensive housing then you can go down the line and document what undocumented labor contributes to the economy. Then we need to take care of those individuals who create those benefits for us. It is a hard conversation to have but I think we need to have that conversation. I mean the same people who are putting the anti-gay propositions on the ballot are the same people who are anti-immigrant.
So if the gay movement becomes anti-immigrant we are basically strengthening our enemies. We need to be really watchful about that. We have what I would call a hypocrisy economy where we want the benefits of the hands of the labor, the undocumented labor where we want the hands but not the whole body.

GN: I have a question about the education bill that was moving in Sacramento [The FAIR Education Act]. I was wondering why there wasn’t more of an effort to educate us about what was going on in Sacramento? I think the effort was being done just through social networks. I hope you will address that because that is not an inclusive way of communicating. About the wins and the losses. I would like to see more of an effort to educate us and for us to go show and lobby. I would like to have diverse people show up.

RP: We have to figure that out and somehow work on creating a mechanism to have people more involved, more informed with the tool so we can create that movement that we are talking about. I think that will be a real challenge. How do we create that loop with communities and with individuals who want to be involved and make a difference. We have to look at the legislation. You were asking me about how to get more connected to the community. Of course there is a process. It will not happen overnight. I was giving you a framework and an approach.

Equality California has passed about 71 bills. We need to do an analysis in terms of what does this mean about localities. We need to see if these bills create partnerships with local activists to start implementing those at a local level so that it really has an impact on the quality of life in those communities. It is not going to be in every community but we have the ability to not take over but can be the nervous system, connecting the synergy with best practices. To share what does work, what doesn’t work. To find out what is unique about one place, to know what is not unique about one place. I really want to create that network, that nervous system, that backbone to connecting our California movement a little bit more.

GN: I don’t know that this is Equality California’s job but there seems to be a lot of functioning Latino LGBT organizations in southern California but there is nothing up in northern California. A friend of mine in San Francisco and I tried last year to start a Latino LGBT organization up here. We couldn’t get a fiscal sponsor. We couldn’t get anybody to do that. It just seems like in part of the conversations it seems like it would be a natural fit for you and the rest of the staff could be hooking up people from different parts of the state so we can be having conversations about how do we work, how are we more effective and how to work together to be more united. And if, oh gawd, we have to go back to the ballot in 2012, what are we going to do? For me, 2012 is too soon anyway.

RP: I have some thoughts. We are in a quandary. On one hand we have a Presidential election that gives us an opportunity to get a lot of progressive people out there to vote. Also, we had a bit of a generational shift because we had younger people, we had a number of Latinos become voters. We had a sizeable Latino generational shift. Then we have Obama saying that he is evolving on the issue of marriage equality. That’s an indication that he might actually come out for marriage equality. We don’t know that but it is putting everyone on notice. They are not challenging DOMA. They were really strong on DADT. This is the holy trinity of issues: marriage, military and DOMA. So this is the only missing piece in that triad of issues. So that’s the opportunity.

The challenge is that this election is 18 months from now. We are supposed to have a game plan. We are supposed to have a fund raising plan. We supposed to have our community united, including our allies. Ninety percent of our pro-equality votes are going to come from our allies. The unions are supportive. The faith based communities, the civil rights organizations. The elected officials, you name it, right? We want to know that those allies are going to be there with us. The unions have their own struggles going on. They are fighting for their lives. Not as much in California but certainly they are starting to feel the pressure.

Then we have to add this other piece – the lawsuit. Lots of resources have been shifted to that. They have raised millions and millions. Lots of the pro-equality money has already been invested in this lawsuit. They might not be as comfortable funding a ballot initiative in 2012. This is a very complicated situation where you have tremendous opportunities and tremendous challenges. I think that part of the town hall meetings is to get some of that information but also to have to go outside of our community as well. Like I said, we depend on the 90% or so that are not just coming from our community.

GN: Here, Santa Clara county went for Prop 22 way back when. We flipped this county by like 32 points. I will say because I was outside the campaign that I could run the campaign in a way that I knew was more effective.  

RP: So you had your ear to the ground.

GN: Exactly. A lot of people don’t know this about Silicon Valley. But 64% of the population is either immigrant or children of immigrants. We have the largest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. Obviously it was critical that we get things out in Vietnamese. We had people out there talking about it. That is one of the reasons we were able to change the vote here because of our relationships with the API [Asian Pacific Islander] community. Right now I am working with a group called Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) to talk about immigration issues here in Silicon Valley. So I am the only non-Asian in the group. But I am doing outreach into the LGBT community, working collaboratively with the biggest Asian group here. So for me that is what it needs to look like – Latinos and Asians working collaboratively in the state of California.

RP: I have just a little more time left. I am just so glad that we connected. We shall continue our conversations.

GN: The last question I have for you, are you going to be moving up here?

RP: I am going to be based in Los Angeles. But I will be travelling throughout the state.

GN: So then the center of the gay universe will be in WeHo now?

RP: You could say that [laughing]. That is one of the things I am looking forward to. I am LA based. I looking forward to working with people around the state. I went to the Courage Campaign’s training in Fresno. We take so much for granted in LA. I was so moved by the courage and passion of people in the Central Valley. It was like going back to the 1950’s. I was just so impressed with the passion and commitment. That inspired me for months. Well even today. It was very touching. I was very touched.

GN: I am glad to hear that. I have really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you for your time.

RP: Thank you. I am sure we will talk again.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest post: An interview with Roland Palencia, pt. 1

PHOTO: Roland Palencia (Copyright: Debra Evans)

Last month the board of directors of Equality California announced they had selected Roland Palencia as their new Executive Director. The announcement surprised many who had not heard his name before, despite an impressive track record in LGBT organizing, philanthropy and business management.  Blogger and journalist Karen Ocamb covered all of this in an interview she posted on her blog last month ("First interview with Ronald Palencia") and Prop 8 Trial Tracker just featured an OpEd by Palencia a couple of days ago ("Marriage equality is an anchor for full social equality").

Today I bring you something a little different.  My good friend Gloria Nieto interviewed Palencia a few days ago and focused on issues that are particularly relevant to the topics I cover on this blog.  This is why I was thrilled when she asked me if she could post the interview on Blabbeando as a guest post.

I have chosen to split the interview into two parts. In this post Palencia discusses his Guatemalan background, the violence that marked his younger years in his country of birth and his extraordinary history of activism in the Latino LGBT and HIV prevention community of California.  He also addresses possible mistakes that Equality California might have committed in their failed battle against Proposition 8 and the prospect of going back to the ballot boxes in 2012 to try to defeat the measure.

In the second part of the interview, Palencia goes into the role of Equality California on other progressive social justice issues such as the economy, education, health care and immigration.  He also touches on President Barack Obama's "evolving" views on marriage equality.  But all that will have to wait.  For now, enjoy the first part of this extraordinary interview.
GLORIA NIETO: Tell me what your history is? I understand you are Guatemalan.
ROLAND PALENCIA: Yes, I was born and raised in Guatemala. My family was very politically involved. My father was one of those people, he was a small businessman and also a revolutionary. And he wanted to basically get rid of the military dictatorship that Guatemalans had been living with for many decades. So he was killed. I also had another cousin who was 18 when she was killed. My father remained disappeared for quite a while until we found his remains. You know? Many of my family members went into exile. Some went to Mexico City, Australia, Spain and Vancouver, Canada. Most of them are still there now. My mom was concerned about our safety. She came to the US and she eventually brought us here. The US was providing military aid to Guatemala at that time. So Central Americans were not really eligible for political asylum so when I came here I was almost 18, I was already an adult. I eventually went to UCLA. That is when I started to come out as a gay man. You know colleges and universities are the environment where many of us find ourselves. Also I got a sense of what being a Latino in the US was. Obviously I felt this sharp contrast with my family who were small businesses. We were not rich but we were somewhat prosperous. Basically here there is the sharp discrimination that many immigrants feel that kind of shaped my consciousness and that along that with the fact that I was coming out as gay Latino man really got me to really think about what I wanted to do. About the conversations that people have about both immigrants and LGBT people. So in 1982, I was one of the co-founders of Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU). Which eventually created the leadership that helped to found Bienestar. I don’t know if you know Oscar De La O but he was the founder of Bienestar.
GN: Right
RP:A lot of that leadership came out of GLLU and of course, many of them are dead now. Many of them died of HIV and AIDS. I lost, I don’t know, seven out of 10 friends. It was a huge epidemic and it hit the activist community really hard. So it was unfortunate about that, aside from the human suffering, just the pain that the pain the community had. I can think of Jose Ramirez. He was Newyorican. He was one of those individuals who really involved in the civil rights movement. Many involved with the United Farm Workers. They really had a connection to the civil rights movement. I think that we lost that whole generation. And we lost the consciousness and the solidarity thinking that came along with that.
GN: You know I have also been of the opinion that men of that age - and I wouldn’t say my numbers were as high as what you are talking about - but definitely, I talk about men who I should be growing old with who are not here anymore. I also think because we all grew up with the feminist movement that there was a lot more solidarity with women.
RP: Absolutely
GN: and being able to operate from basic feminist principles of inclusion and equality, that losing so many of that generation, there was a loss of transferring that information, those principles and experience to younger men.
RP: So the hand off in terms of certain values, the basic tenets of the solidarity movement, that whole notion of interconnection and intersecting movements was lost, we lost a lot of that. I don’t think we have analyzed the huge impact that the loss of that generation has had on the movement and where we are now. I can think of Frank Mendiola who was a farm worker child. He was raised in the farms and he became a union activists. He was the one who organized the Gay and Lesbian Center. He was like 24 and he was organizing the biggest LGBT institution. So that is part of my history. In the late 80’s I founded VIVA along with other friends. That was basically and LGBT artists organization.
GN: And then you are a founder of HONOR PAC too?
RP: No, I am not a founder of HONOR PAC. I am on the advisory board.
GN: Oh OK.
RP: The main thing about VIVA is that so many of our gay brothers were dying that we created that organization to make sure that we kept their art and memories alive. One of the impetus for that is that so many gay Latino men were dying we got Latinas and Latinos involved and to really promote our art and the expanded consciousness that comes along with that. So that went on for like four or five years. Then I went to work at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. I was the vice president and chief of operations. Between being a consultant and a full time employee, I was there about eight years. And then I went to La Clinica Monseñor Oscar Romero. I was the Executive Director there. I was the E.D. for four and a half years. After that I started my philanthropic work with the foundations. I became the senior program officer at the California Endowment. Now I have been appointed as the next Executive Director of Equality California.
GN: Well that is quite the story.
RP: It’s a lot.
GN: The Prop 8 campaign did not turn out the way we wanted it to. I am curious what you were able to do at that time. How were you able to help?
RP: I think I am one of those people who wish we had done more. I also know that there were a lot of blind spots. Things that campaign could have done a lot better. We all have learned a lot of lessons from that. I think that one of the lessons we learned was that we have to talk to the people. You know we can’t do these things in a vacuum. WE have to have these one to one conversations in all kinds of community and all kinds of languages. We also have to understand that our opponents are very organized and very powerful and they have a lot of money. They have basically built in infrastructure of churches that are not on our side that they can turn on and turn off. So I was one of those people who was not as involved.
I think it is important to acknowledge that. I gave some money and made some phone calls. I remember on election day I was educating voters. It was outside the voting booths within the legal limits. I was out there for about 10 hours. At the end of the day, they wanted to arrest me. I was definitely involved.
I was involved in the Obama campaign. I went to Nevada to knock on doors. I was involved in the Obama campaign a lot more than the Prop 8 campaign.
GN: Just in terms of my own experience, I have to say that this campaign definitely scarred me. I have to say this was because of the really bad treatment I got from Equality California - and I mean really bad treatment. Here I was running a hunk of the campaign here in San Jose, got talked to like I was a dog. Talked to incredibly disrespectfully, couldn’t get any resources. I would get resources from people in other counties. I would drive to Santa Cruz to get yard signs. You know that is now way to run a campaign. There was an evening when some of the labor folks had brought hotel maids to help with phone banking. We did not have a Spanish script. So they were reduced to emptying the garbage cans and cleaning up. I was crying and crying and crying that night. I still apologize to the union people for that. Then campaign staff person says that they have to check on any scripts to make sure they are culturally competent. Of course! My response in my head though was 'fuck you, fuck you for treating my folks like this'. I worked with Luis Lopez [currently a candidate for state Assembly] to get window signs in Spanish. We generated these signs and offered to folks in San Francisco. We also got them done in Vietnamese, too. We got them out all through San Jose. I offered them to San Francisco and never heard a word. Nothing.
RP: That should have never happened.
GN: No!!!
RP: Those are stories of things that should have never happened. By the way, my activism was with HONOR PAC, not necessarily with the bigger campaign.
GN: But why did HONOR PAC have an office in LA, the were the only ones with an office in LA?
RP: They got some space from Supervisor Gloria Molina.
GN: I know but I am just saying that the campaign never opened up anything in LA.
RP: Correct. There was a relationship. If we go back in 2012, which is going to be a daunting task, these things need to be in place.
* Gloria Nieto is a Latina lesbian blogger. She writes for the San Francisco Gate, in the Chronicle's blogger section, City Brights. Gloria lives in Northern California with her esposa, three dogs and three cats. She is looking forward to having a job before she is eligible for social security

Monday, June 06, 2011

About those threats against NYS State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr...

Photo: Vital shows the love she has for her girlfriend. The two got engaged on May 10, 2010.

Imagine loving someone so much you want to let her know by tattooing a message of love on yourself.  Imagine wanting to spend your lifetime with that person and celebrating it by becoming engaged, hoping against hope that some day you'll be able to marry her. 

Then imagine someone who has never even met you tell you that your relationship is "unnatural". That it is similar to bestiality.  That it means that you have rejected Jesus.  That you may very well go to Hell.  Worst, imagine that person is in political office and has spent years trying his darnest to keep you from getting married.

I don't exactly remember when and why I started following Vital on Twitter.  I just know that she comes off as savvy, funny, rough-around-the-edges and immensely protective of the love she has for her partner. But I do remember being on Twitter sometime in mid-May when I saw Vital send out a very specific Tweet.

I mention this now because, as of late, New York State Senator Ruben Diaz has been ratcheting up the allegations that he is being victimized and using Vital's tweet as a prime example.  Case in point: On Wednesday, New York Daily News political reporter Celeste Katz brought it up in her online blog as follows (italics mine)
Diaz said he and his family have received death threats due to his vocal stance on keeping gay marriage unlawful in New York State. They were reported to the FBI and Albany police, he said. "We are in America; we are supposed to agree to disagree and respect each other's positions," the senator said. On May 10, tweets by opponents of Diaz's May 15 rally included one in which the sender expressed the desire to sexually assault Diaz's daughter.
"Sexually assault Diaz's daughter". Hm, is someone really on the look-out for Diaz' daughter? Does someone want to sexually assault her? Does it merit an investigation by the FBI or the Albany police?

While the tweet in question might be vulgar and is certainly open to interpretation, it never mentions the word assault or rape, nor does it portray intent. In other words, it doesn't say "I am going to do [this and that]...".

Here is the uncensored version: "Is it wrong that I wanna track down Ruben Diaz daughter and fuck the shit out of her on tape, then show it to him?"

Shocking. Yes. Unfortunate, yes. A threat. I differ with Diaz on that one. In any case, I thought I would reach out to Vital and talk to her about that specific tweet because I firmly believe she is unfairly being targeted.  Here is our exchange:
Blabbeando: Hey Vital, thanks for allowing me to interview you. Let's start with that now infamous Tweet you sent on May 10th.  Can you tell me what was going through your mind when you posted that tweet and if you meant as a threat to the Senator or anyone in his family?
Vital: Well when this tweet was posted, I was extremely upset about all the statements he was making against the gay community. As a woman in a relationship with another woman, everyday presents several obstacles to overcome. We have people pointing and staring at us out in the street, as well as people pre-judging our character based on stereotypes alone. The statement I said was not in anyway intended to be directed to Rev. Ruben Diaz. It was more a question to my Twitter followers.

I guess subconsciously I was really wondering what would Rev. Ruben Diaz do if it was his daughter that was engaging in sexual relations with another woman? Would he accept it? How about if she was attacked verbally by an outsider and her character was being questioned because of her sexual orientation?

And, to answer the last part of your question, as I previously said, that tweet was not specifically sent to Rev. Ruben Diaz. I did not send it to him to his Twitter account, his e-mail or his home addressl. I posted it on my Twitter timeline, for my followers.  Sen. Diaz was not one of my followers and it is a misfortune that he did see it and thus took it as a personal threat.

Blabbeando:  That day, Senator Diaz posted your Tweet on his Senate page as an example of a "vicious threat" against him and included your Twitter handle as well as that of one of your followers who re-twitted it. I know you had no idea how public your comment had become because I was the first one to alert you and, when I did, you told me you had no idea your messages could be seen by anyone else on Twitter but the people who followed your timeline. What was your initial reaction when you found out it had gone public? What do you think about it now, almost a month later?

Vital: WOW, I could never forget that day when you called me and told me about it. I was mortified. I was afraid and mostly I was embarrassed. Why? Because he made it seem like that one comment represents the whole LGBTQ community, when in fact it DOESN'T. That comment was nothing premeditated and was quickly said with out a thought. Unlike the statements Rev Ruben Diaz has made not worrying whose feelings were hurt or whose character he defamed. Now, a month later, I've definitely learned my lesson and, in fact, I have become very choosey with what I do say via Twitter.
Blabbeando: I know you were aware that Senator Diaz was organizing a rally against marriage equality in the Bronx and that you wanted to join some of us who went there to counter his opposition to our rights. But I also know that you couldn't make it for a very special reason. Can you tell more about the reason that you weren't able to join us?

Vital: Yes - I wanted to make that rally so bad! But I was launching the first ever event for a group I run that same weekend and I couldn't change the dates. My partner and I stayed out in the streets for 24 hours and went homeless as an effort to raise money for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer New York City youth.  It began on May 14th at 2pm and ended May 15th at 2pm. We were exhausted, soaked and dirty; however, it was a very humbling experience and I'm happy to have done it to raise awareness and money for a special homeless shelter!

Blabbeando: Your Tweet went out more than three weeks ago and yet, Senator Diaz continues to bring it up as an example of the threats he allegedly has been getting. Some national right-wing anti-gay organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage are just now picking up on it and are parroting whatever Senator Diaz is telling them about it. Should you be portrayed as the very face of intolerance and violence that the Senator and his allies are trying to pump up in an effort to portray themselves as victims?

Vital: I undoubtedly regret wording that Tweet as I did, and I obviously did not mean what I said, however, I wanted to put into perspective how Rev. Ruben Diaz would feel if his own child was involved in a homosexual act. I in no way meant that as a threat, but I did speak out of emotions rather than use my common sense- so for that I do apologize.

As for whether I should be the very face of intolerance? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I do not believe in violence, I believe that reason does not yell, and I believe that peaceful agreements go further than anything else. In any LGBTQ events that I have been a part of, it has been peaceful marches, as I stated prior, the homeless project, making and selling T-Shirts in an effort to raise money for homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth, so as you can see none of these are representative of "the face of intolerance and violence." In fact I am the complete opposite of what they are trying to portray, I am one to support and spread love to everyone, indiscriminately.

Blabbeando: Thanks so much, Vital, for letting me engage you in this conversation.
Last week, I spent time translating an interview Diaz did with Juan Manuel Benitez, host of "Pura Politica" on New York 1 Noticias in which the Senator said he was at a loss in understanding why he was the focus of so much resentment from the gay community. During one particular exchange, Benitez kept insisting that it shouldn't be surprising that if the Senator had made his opposition to LGBT rights the number one issue of his political career, members of the LGBT community might feel hurt by his comments and actions.  The way Benitez put it to Diaz was "You can't throw a stone and then hide your hands".

Does this justify the language and tone that some use against Diaz? Not at all, but it is understandable. I just wish sometimes that people could hold their breath for a second before posting something and realize that their words can be used to Diaz' advantage.

In this specific case, I wanted to write about Vital because I knew she was speaking in anger and that she never meant her tweet as a threat. I also appreciate that she was willing to talk to me about it because it provides an example of how our rightful anger at Diaz, if expressed badly, can have consequences.

And if anyone from the FBI or the Albany police is reading this, you are welcome! I've done the groundwork for you on this one. Case closed.

  • Visit Vital's blog here

Friday, June 03, 2011

Juan Manuel Benitez to NYS Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: "You can't throw a stone and then hide your hands"

It took a while but here is the translated and transcribed second part of the interview between "Pura Politica" host Juan Manuel Benitez and New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. that ran a week ago today on New York 1 Noticias.  Elements of this segment have been already been translated by Tony Varona and posted at Pam's House Blend ("Anti-gay NY State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz grilled on NY1 Spanish channel").  This is a rawer translation, keeping intact some turns in phrasing as well as sudden changes from present to past tenses, as spoken by interviewer and interviewee during the broadcast - which might make it a little hard to read.  A couple of comments before posting the video:
  • At the 6:40, in attempting to justify his opposition to the 1994 Gay Games in New York, Reverend Diaz invokes the name of basketball player Michael Jordan in arguing that Jordan was barred from entering other countries due to his HIV status.  The Reverend seems to be confusing Michael Jordan with Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr., who had announced he was HIV positive back in 1991.
  • It's truly jaw-dropping to hear the Reverend claim he's just a single individual with some unpopular views and that he would have never, ever, mounted any effort to defeat any effort to advance LGBT-rights if only he'd been left alone.  As Benitez says, he has single-handedly made opposing LGBT-rights the main pillar of his political career. Never mind that he is not "just" a single individual: He is a State Senator with the power to influence thousands of people with a single vote.
  • A few people online are already noted that at the end of the interview, at the 10:40 mark, the Reverend seems to admit that he used to be gay. "I used to be a homosexual", he seems to say before catching himself and talking about being a former drug addict. It's obviously an accidental slip of the tongue. I'm not sure what good it serves for people to use it to argue that the man must be a closeted bigot as some are doing already online. The man is a bigot, but those who keep waiting for a rent-boy to pop up and expose the Reverend as being gay will probably wait until the end of the world. Not that I would really want the Reverend to be on our team, even if he insists in this interview that he could very well become gay overnight if he put himself up to it.
  • Apparently, as the Reverend has said before and says once again in this interview, he respects Blabbeando for its impartiality. I appreciate his sentiments but want to make clear that no economic exchanges were made in return for the free publicity (a joke, people, a joke).
  • Finally, I might be biased on the issue, but I really cannot stop myself from admiring the amazing job Juan Manuel Benitez has done in digging at Diaz in this and previous interviews by being respectful, direct, persistent and insistent. In this, and other previous interviews, you can see that he gets under the Reverend's skin when Diaz begins to stutter and mumble at a momentary loss of words. It really cuts through his "I'm not a homophobe" façade and exposes him for whom he truly is.
  • A couple of exchanges stand out as my favorites and they might not be the ones you suspect: The first one comes at the 6:03 mark when the Reverend is trying to portray himself as an innocent victim of attacks by the LGBT community.  In response, Benitez cuts straight through the Reverend's BS reminding him his whole political career has been about opposing LGBT rights. Benitez tells him: "You can't throw a stone and then hide your hands"
  • The second comes at the 4:50 mark, when the Reverend tries to justify his boycott of El Diario La Prensa by saying that they never cover religious activities such as the Day of the Pastor or children's parades he has organized in the past. Benitez' response to the Reverend?: "Perhaps they only cover is what they consider to be newsworthy". You know, like first communions and such. Just priceless.
Anyway, enough comments, here is the video...

JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Senator, aren't you afraid that 10, 20, 30 years from now, when they make documentaries about this issue - an issue that is already unstoppable; each day there are more countries and more states that recognize marriages between couples of the same gender - you will be seen as one of those politicians you see in documentaries from the 1950's, 1960's, who opposed civil rights. That you will be seen as one of those politicians when history looks back?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: OK, there are several things I am going to say. First of all. Mayor Bloomberg and those people who dare - DARE! - to compare the suffering, the enslavement, the deportations, the assaults against the African-American community; from Africa, how they took them away from their families, brought them in ships, chained them up, sold them as slaves. People such as Mayor Bloomberg, who dare to compare that to the issue of the homosexual lifestyle, to compare the two is to disrespect - to abuse and disrespect - the black community. And black people - the black community - should not sustain... should respond and not allow the suffering and slavery of the black community to be used as a comparison to the lifestyle of the homosexual community. That is disrespectful to the black community.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Second: Those states that allow civil marriages [between same-sex partners] haven't done so because the people have voted for it. The people of each state - including California - each state where the people has been given the opportunity to vote, people have rejected it. Now, what has happened is that millionaires like Bloomberg come in, take a bunch of money, they buy out legislators and vote them in, and thus the legislature imposes it on the public.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: The end of racial segregation was also not decided by voters; instead it was by order of the Supreme Court and also by direct order of the president of the United States...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I'll say it again, I'll say it again; compare it to the Jews. The Jews won't allow anyone to make comparisons to their suffering and their...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: But you have to admit that the homosexual community has also had their suffering and that they still suffer attacks by...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: As have we, the Puerto Ricans, the Hispanics, as we have had, the Hispanics, the Puerto Ricans...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: In other words, you do not deny they have suffered...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Just like fat people, just like... in this world, discrimination is massive. Ourselves as Hispanics, ourselves as Puerto Ricans, we felt it when we came to this country an we still experience it, wherever we are. But to compare that with the suffering and the civil rights of blacks... with the suffering of black slavery in the United States and the entire world... that is disrespectful to the back community.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: But many in the homosexual community can also say that you have also been disrespectful on many occasions. [If there has been] a fundamental pillar in your career and your political life it's been your opposition to the homosexual community. Let's look at this: In 2003, you stood against the expansion of a high school for homosexual students with a lawsuit...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I don't think, I don't think public funds...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: And in 1994, you complained against the staging of the "Gay Games" athletic event in New York City and you stated, at that time, "some of the gay and lesbian athletes could already be infected with AIDS" and you also said "children could also come to the conclusion that if there are so many gay and lesbian athletes, then there is nothing wrong about it, there are no risks". Don't you think that the homosexual community might feel hurt by these comments? And because the fundamental pillar of your political career has been as such.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: But hold on a second. Where are we living? We are living in America. We are living in the United States of America where there is freedom of expression, and freedom means that you might agree with something and I have the right to be in disagreement. Now, you'll take away my freedom to decide what I believe in and what I don't believe in?
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: One more time: You are banning the right of homosexual people to choose to marry the people they fall in love with.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, I'm saying... no, no... fall in love with whoever you want, my brother. You can fall in love with whomever, and have pleasure with whomever, and get involved with... What I'm teling you is that I don't approve of marriage and I won't vote for it with my vote. But... have pleasure with whomever you find, fall in love with whomever, I'm not telling you who to fall in love with.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: This freedom of expression, to say what you want to say, don't you extend it to El Diario La Prensa? You've been organizing a boycott based on the editorial content of El Diario La Prensa because they back same-sex marriage...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: And abortion, and abortion, because...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: So you want to silence El Diario La Prensa's freedom of expression.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, I want to be granted equality. I want to be granted equality.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: And what is equality. Which is the equality.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Equality means that El Diario La Prensa doesn't cover any of our activities. They don't cover our children's parades...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: They did cover your rally from a couple of weeks back...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Nooooo, oh, man, it was just miniscule coverage. They don't cover the Day of the Pastor, they don't cover religious activities, they don't cover a thing. They only cover...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ:  Perhaps they only cover is what they consider to be newsworthy...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: So us... the Evangelical people don't have the right... We don't have to invest 50 cents to buy it. That doesn't... that doesn't... we are in America!
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: You are taking away the freedom of expression from them.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Ah! So is it an attack... for... for... for us to inhibit our right to express our position. Give me equality, and let's say we'll be on even keel. I'm not saying 'Do not write about that'. What I'm saying is: Why is it that you write only about that side... and don't write about this side. Journalism should be impartial. Which is what I just told you about Blabbeando. Blabbeando. Look, what I said to you about Blabbeando, is that I respect Blabbeando because he's impartial in his writing...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Blabbeando is a blog you have mentioned on other occasions in this program... but each newspaper has their editorial track and their opinion track, and their editorial is their editorial. That's where the editors express their opinion.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: So we have no... / No, no... not their editorials, their entire content: They don't cover us and if they block us... in other words, journalism in America should be impartial. It should cover this and it should cover that. But if it's only going to cover one side...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: But it would appear that you use these arguments are your liking but then turn them around when they are of no benefit to you...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Well, I live in America and I am nothing more than a single individual, I don't understand why so many people have a problem when I am a single individual; there are so many millionaires and so much press contributing in favor of homosexual marriage; why is it that I am the one who is being attacked now.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Because you know - once again, I repeat this to you - you have based a fundamental pillar in your career doing this. In other words, you can't throw a stone and then hide your hands.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: It's not because I've wanted to. Not me, not me, not me. It's themselves, and it brings us publicity - when they start attacking me. If they'd leave me alone, I wouldn't do a thing. I'm just stating my position.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: You have said... you have said... you have made some comments that are... that many consider to be insults.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: They are not insults. What I am saying there, what I am saying there, first of all: When the Olympic games arrived, Michael Jordan was banned from leaving this country, and other countries over there - outside of the United States - banned Michael Jordan's entry because he had AIDS. And so, when they over there... yes... and I said, why do we have to permit entry to those who come here and those from here, our people, are prohibited from entering there. That's what I said...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: ...and that children would think there was nothing wrong with being homosexual...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I still say that, I still say that...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: You still say that...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Of course!
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Do you then think... you do not deserve, then, those campaigns staged against you, don't you deserve them after saying... after making such comments about the homosexual community?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, what I am saying... I took the position that for me homosexuality - as a pastor, as a minister, biblically - should not be.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: And I wanted to ask you, I have two questions, but we have to go quickly to end this segment. First, aren't you afraid to end up like those pastors who announced the end of the world last week - with all those tragedies that will occur if homosexual marriage is adopted - after observing that many countries throughout the world - those who warned that something would happen, that a tragedy would occur - that hasn't happened. Do you think you'll be left like those pastors who announced the end of the world?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I announce the end of the world.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Whenever God decides it's time...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Ah! Of course, that's how you hedge your bets!
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, no, no. It's just what the Bible says. According to the Bible, Lord Jesus Christ said that not even the angels sitting at...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: But let me ask you. Do you not fear being left behind like those charlatan pastors who announce the end of the world as they did last week and, in the end, they have to backtrack because this world did not end?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Left behind as what? Are you calling me a charlatan because I oppose homosexual marriage?
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: No! Because I am telling you that you claim that if homosexual marriage is adopted all kind of awful things will happen to society - and that it's been legalized in other countries and none of that has happened - when you are basing it on an opinion but not on data or facts!
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: And why not spend that money on a more common system, ask for a referendum, and allow the 20 million residents of the State of New York to say whether they want it or not. Why impose it, by buying out Senate votes, buying out their minds and buying out their conscience.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: And to end, Senator: You also released a press statement on Thursday in response to Mayor Bloomberg addressing the "homosexual lifestyle". "Why defend the homosexual lifestyle". Do you then believe that this is a "lifestyle" that can be chosen? Do you think that homosexuals wake up one morning and say "I am going to fall in love with someone of the same gender".
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I believe, I believe, I believe that it is, I believe, I believe that it's a homosexual behavior - because there are homosexuals who have changed their behavior...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: And so, let me ask you: If it's a choice, by that same rule, you could wake up tomorrow... get up tomorrow and say "I am going to fall in love with a man".
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I could.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: You think you can?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Yes, I could.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: In other words, you'd be capable of that.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I'm not sure if Id' be capable of it but it could happen.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: It could happen...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: It could happen that many people will get up tomorrow with an atrophied and different mind, and change things. I was... Me, when I became born again, when I arrived... Look, I left drugs behind.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: But... are you comparing - one more time - something...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I left drugs behind. And my mind changed: One day I said "No more". I left drugs behind. And here I am.
JUAN MANEL BENITEZ: In other words, being homosexual is akin to being addicted to drugs...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Ah, it's that you all, you know, it's impossible. It isn't true...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: But that's the comparison you just made!
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No. I am comparing what one can change from one day to another, change one's mind. I was telling you who I was. But you insist on looking for the turn of the screw and tomorrow the blogs will go crazy. "Look what he said!" "Look what he is comparing it to!" I am not saying that. What I am saying is, I used to be homo... [laughs] see? You have... I was, er, addicted to drugs. I left the armed forces with a vicious addiction to drugs and straight to the United States and I was deep into vice. One day, all of a sudden, I changed my mind and from then on, I wasn't anymore. What I am saying - but I wasn't born addicted to drugs. I wasn;t born addicted to drugs.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: That's where we'll leave it. Thank you so much for being here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

NYS Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. defends comparing homosexuality to bestiality

Mention "New York 1" to anyone in New York City and, if they have access to Time Warner Cable, they'll admit it's their first place to go for NYC news, politics, weather, sports and traffic.  Lesser known to New York City residents is its Spanish-language companion "New York 1 Noticias" which happens to be the host of one of the best weekly political television shows in the nation, "Pura Política". If you speak or understand Spanish and are interested in city politics from a Latino perspective, please do me a favor and watch it every Friday at 6pm EST or set your DVR to record it every week (Ch. 95 on basic cable / Ch. 801 on digital cable).

I have often featured clips from "Pura Politica" on this blog, particularly when host Juan Manuel Benitez has invited politicians and political candidates to address LGBT issues (i.e.: "Three Latino candidates oppose marriage equality as they seek statewide office" from August of 2010).

More often than not, the most riveting appearances on "Pura Politica" when it comes to LGBT issues have been the times that Benitez has hosted State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. and patiently and meticulously has challenged Diaz on his homophobia and dismantled each and everyone of the Senator's bigoted arguments against marriage equality and LGBT-rights.

There was that time when Diaz acknowledged marriage equality would become law of the land in the United States ("Supreme Court will allow same-sex marriages as a sign of the End of Days"), or the time Diaz blamed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the lack of marriage equality in New York State ("Sen. Diaz: Blame Bloomberg for the lack of marriage equality in NYS"), and, of course, who could forget the time Diaz argued there was no such thing as separation of church and state in the U.S., particularly because Diaz himself argued he was THE church and THE state?

Those nuggets all came from previous appearances by Diaz on "Pura Politica".  On last Friday's show, Diaz appeared on the show once again and, when it comes to further exposing his religious-based homophobia, the show did not disappoint.  Here is Part 1 of the interview (you can click on the video to open up a larger view which might make it easier to read my translation).

I'll be writing more about this in days ahead but I hope you will watch every single minute of the first part of Benitez' masterful take-down of Diaz' homophobic arguments.

I do have to say that I had been waiting to translate Part 2 of this interview before posting it.  Today, though, I got scooped!

My friend Pam Spaulding hosted a post this morning by Tony Varona - a law professor and academic dean at the American University Washington College of Law who is on the board of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and is a former general counsel/legal director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) - in which he translated segments of the interview ("Antigay NY State Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz Grilled On NY1"). The post has since been picked up by others, including the following:
If you click on the YouTube video above you will see my annotated translation.  I have also posted a transcript below.  I'll post the 2nd part of thee interview later this week.

"Pura Politica": Interview with New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. by Juan Manuel Benitez. Original air date: May 27th, 2011.

JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Here with us is State Senator & Pentecostal Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. Thanks a lot for being here in "Pura Politica" one more time. Let's begin here: This legislation does not affect your church. It's a civil issue. Why do you continue to oppose...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: That's not true... That's not true... that's not true...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Is someone going to force you to.. to...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Yes, according to the bill - look for the bill - how the bill has been drafted; in the future, churches will be forced to do it, yes. Now...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: That's not true. In other words, let's address the facts. This is about.. we are talking about civil marriages. No one will go to your churh to get married.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, no. Marriage is marriage...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Civil marriage...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Marriage is marriage. The bill has been drafted and, in its current form, this specific bill does not exempt churches nor ministers. The bill does not say that.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: The bill addresses civil marriage, not religious marriage...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: The bill addresses marriage between a man and a man, and between a woman and a woman.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: ...and you are referring to civil marriage, not religious marriage. Do you really think that the gay community - gay couples - will go to your church to get married?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I'd have to marry some of them according to...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: They'll go to your church so you can marry them!?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Well, who knows? They might go to my church so that I won't marry them... so that I won't marry them and they can then file a civil claim, file a discrimination suit, file a case to strip tax benefits from my church; because 'If I can't get married, then you are discriminating' and so the state cannot assist an institution that...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: I don't know if you've read the bill, but the bill specifically exempts churches. This is all about a civil marriage, marriages that take place at city halls, a non-religious civil marriage.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No. One of the new senators who is on the fence just said that he'd like [the exemption] so that it will be left explicitly clear - that the law will not force the hand of ministers from the churches and the synagogues.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: And if there is an exemption, if - as you say - such language were included to exempt churches so there won't be any issues of discrimination, would you vote 'yes' for that type of gay civil marriage?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Me? Not me. Truthfully, no, because marriage for me is marriage in whichever form you like. That's the truth. I don't base my opinion against homosexual marriage on this and that. My basis is that it's against nature and that it's something that should not... not... not... ... ... should not be.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: 'Shouldn't be'. OK, last week we had Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito with us and she expressed her frustration that you've built yourself up as a spokesperson for the Latino community on this issue. This is what she said regarding the the publicity campaign for the rally you organized a few days ago in the Bronx. Let's listen.
COUNCILMEMBER MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: ...and I believe that the mobilization and the ads that were also purchased - he bought on-air time in radio stations, and I listened to them - what he was promoting, I think, was hate - even if he says the opposite - a lack of acceptance, intolerance towards a few individuals who are deciding to live their lives however they wish to do so. And in trying not to promote it or support the legislation, and in trying to prevent passage of the legislation, of course! You are already entering that area in which you are not supporting the separation between church and state.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I have no idea what she is saying.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Well, she says that in the publicity campaign for the rally you organized a few days ago in the Bronx you were inciting, more or less, in your message - according to her - you had shades of hate; a message of hate.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Oh, man, I'm so tired of this. I'm so tired of this. You now, it's incredible. I don't even want to respond to it.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: You're talking to me in English, say it to me in Spanish...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, I'm no longer going to respond to that. You know: The lies, how they twist the truth, the way they twist things to promote something, you know, shame is what these people should feel. These people should feel ashamed. How they change things; how they want to take things and change them; to portray what was said and what wasn't said. For what? That's so they earn people's sympathy. Shame is what they should feel.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: We have never spoken about hate. There is no such thing as hate. On the contrary, my granddaughter arrived and I embraced her and I told everyone 'this is not about hate'. Why do they continue to try and insist that we want to hate. We... everyone in America has the right to chose what they want. Some are in favor of something, some are against something. In other words, we cannot pray - the churches - when prayer is not allowed, when reading scripture is not allowed, we don't say that they hate us. That's...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Everyone does enjoy freedoms, as you say, but you are blocking gay people's freedom to get married with the person they love...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, we don't have the freedom. I cannot pray at church, I cannot pray at school, I cannot read scripture. Students cannot. Any teacher who does it is fired. In other words, there is no freedom. You can't do it. Whoever does it is fired. We are the ones who are being pursued. Christians are pursued for that reason. Christian religion is pursued when we are not allowed to do the things we want to do. We accept it. That's fine. But it's not that they hate us: They don't like us... they won't allow us to do it. So why is it that when one is opposed to something, 'AH! IT'S HATE!'...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: You have always said it's not homophobia, that you are not homophobic...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: It's that homophobia... No, hate is what they do against me: The 'blasts' they send, the threats they send, the letters that come...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: But before we get to that, do you consider yourself... do you accept, as such, being called a 'homophobe'?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: How could that be!
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: You are not a homophobe?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: How could that be! I have family! How many times do I have to come here to tell you the same thing. To tell people.. why... no, no...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Well, lets see: I'll read you the definition of the word "Homophobe" because I am a bit confused. The Royal Academy of Language says that "Homophobia" is an obsessive aversion towards homosexual individuals, your reply?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Obsessive aversion? And who has 'obsessive aversion' towards homosexuals?
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: You not only show aversion but also say things like this, let's listen, from two years ago, let's listen...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: If being homosexual is a sin against nature, do you then think that homosexuality is a choice or simply...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, it's a... it's akin to having sexual relations with animals, many people also want it.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: In other words, you think that having sexual relations - a man with a man and a woman with a woman - it's akin to having sexual relations with animals.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: They are both actions that go against nature. They are actions that go against nature. It has not been established by the nature of God that it should be that way.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: And what was it that I said there...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: In other words, you are saying... you are comparing relations between homosexual people with the behavior of...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: No, no, no. We are establishing what goes against nature. Relations between homosexuals go against... nature itself tells us, eh..
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: In other words, what you are telling us is that homosexual people go against nature.
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Yes. In other words, their relations go against...
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: And that's not an interpretation?
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Let's see... OK, if you want to say it's an interpretation that's your prerogative. The... something that goes against nature is something... nature itself says that marriage between a woman and a man are able to procreate [and have] children.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Where does it say so.. where does nature say that...
SEN. RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: Nature says it! Nature teaches you that a relation between a man and a woman can procreate children and that a relation between a man and another man or a woman with another... cannot procreate children. So nature itself... nature itself is telling you and the whole world 'This, I did not create'.
  • This is part 1 of a 2 part interview. For a transcript of the rest of the interview please click here.