Latino Politicians/Pastors Lead Fight Against Same-sex Marriage in New York

Years from now — I won’t venture a guess as to how many but I am fairly certain by that time the names Carrie Prejean and Perez Hilton will be mere footnotes — when the history of the struggle over gay rights and same-sex marriage is written, there will be plenty of heroes/heroines to be honored, and more than enough villains to go around. Maybe villains is too strong a term; how about anti-gay true believers whose beliefs resulted in real harm? For every courageous couple in Iowa or Massachusetts who, against great odds, have pressed on, there are those that have made it their business to stand (metaphorically for now) in the courthouse doorway.

For now, if you’ve been following the battle over same-sex marriage and you don’t know who the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez or Rubén Díaz are, you likely soon will.

Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), and Diaz, a New York state Senator from the Bronx a Pentecostal pastor in that borough, are two key players leading anti-same-sex marriage forces in New York State.

On Sunday, May 17, while much of the “culture war” crowd was focused on events at Notre Dame University — where President Barack Obama was heartily welcomed by UND graduates and their families — things were hopping in New York City. Thousands of anti-same-sex marriage activists marched in opposition to Governor David Patterson’s gay marriage bill. The Christian Post reported that the mostly Latino crowd, which gathered at the Governor’s Manhattan office, “stretched from 35th to 40th Street on 3rd Avenue in New York City.”

At the same time hundreds of marriage-equality advocates gathered at a rally near Rockefeller Center. Speakers at the pro–marriage equality rally included New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council speaker Christine Quinn, state assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, and actors Cynthia Nixon, David Hyde Pierce, Cheyenne Jackson, and Gavin Creel.

Last week, the New York State Assembly passed the marriage equality bill by an 89 to 52 vote. According to Box Turtle Bulletin, “The Assembly voted for a marriage bill in 2007, as well. But in that vote the count was 85 to 61. And while this year’s vote only has four more ‘yes’ votes, the margin of victory increased from 24 to 37.” How the bill will fare in the State senate is anybody’s guess.

Among the leaders of the protest was Rubén Díaz who had earlier charged Patterson with disrespecting religious groups by introducing gay marriage legislation on April 16, a few days before the weeks of Passover and Easter began. As if it would have been okay on May Day!

Charisma News Online reported that at this time, Diaz has expressed near certainty that the bill will not pass in the Senate, as it “lacks the 32 votes needed to pass the measure, even though there are 32 Democratic senators.”

“I have the commitment form six Democrats that they will not vote for it,” Díaz said. “So they’re going to have to go to the Republicans if they want to pass it in the Senate. But this is a Democratic agenda, and I doubt that the Republicans would jump on board to make the Democrats look good.” According to Charisma News Online, “Even if the gay marriage bill is reintroduced every year, Díaz promises to block it. ‘I’m a preacher. I’m not only a state senator. I would not vote for that.’”

Joining Diaz at the demonstration was a coalition that included Radio Vision Cristiana International, the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, the CONLICO network of bishops and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

“Radio Vision has been motivated to respond to . . . Paterson and every other elected official, to let them know that we are not sleeping and that we will not stay idle with our hands crossed while they pressure and promote marriage between persons of the same sex,” said the Rev. Milton Donato, president of Radio Vision Cristiana.

Amongst this group of pastors and politicians, Samuel Rodriquez has the highest public profile and biggest national platform. In late April, Rodriguez’s NHCLC (NHCLC) and the Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, sponsored the third Annual Hispanic/African American Evangelical Summit in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. “With approximately 1,700 in attendance, this event establishes the gathering as the premier Black/Brown faith event in our nation. The African American Hispanic Summit served the Christian community as it provided a venue for multi-layered, cross cultural interactions,” declared Dr. Angel Nunez, NHCLC Senior Vice President and National Director of the Hispanic/Black Evangelical Alliance.

“Hispanics and African Americans stand as the Peter and John of the 21st Century American Church. We stand before the Gate called Beautiful. Our communities once again lie crippled, paralyzed and without hope. We, the Black and the Brown may not have all the silver or the gold but what we have we give; In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth we tell our families, communities and nation, get up and walk,” stated Rodriguez.

In early May, in a post at the “On Faith” website sponsored by Newsweek and The Washington Post Rodriguez criticized President Obama for “demonstrate[ing] his brand of political correctness by acknowledging a day of prayer and simultaneously rejecting the idea that the White House should somehow commemorate the day in an official event.”

As Frederick Clarkson recently pointed out at Talk2Action, Rodriguez was a signatory to a document titled “Come Let Us Reason Together: A Fresh Look at Shared Cultural Values Between Evangelicals and Progressives (CLURT)”, a document aimed at establishing “common ground” between evangelicals and progressive religious.

At the anti-same-sex marriage three-hour extravaganza, Diaz told the crowd: “They accuse us of homophobia. They accuse us of being radicals . . . They accuse us of many things because they want to close the mouth of the church.”

According to Gay City News, “Diaz credited Radio Vision Cristiana, a New Jersey-based AM radio station that broadcasts religious programming, with turning out the [huge] crowd” which, organizers claimed, included representatives from 3,000 churches from the tri-state area.

“They sounded the trumpet and here we are,” Diaz said. “The sleeping giant has awakened and nothing can make him go back to sleep.”

Rabbi Yehuda Levin of Brooklyn, a longtime anti-gay activist, played the fear card to its fullest possible extent: “If this legislation passes, God forbid, you and I will be considered by the state law as bigots, as discriminating. They will take away from our religious schools the tax deductions. They will not give us any government for our schools. They will make our marriage counselors counsel homosexual couples. Our accountants will have to do taxes for married homosexual couples. Our children will be brought in school “Heath has Two Mommies” . . . The full force of the state government will come down on us like a ton of bricks. We will be outcasts.”

And, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based lobby group, was also on hand. “The politicians are unleashing chaos on our children, on our families, and on our nation by redefining marriage . . . One thing stands in the way of this chaos — you,” Perkins told the crowd.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column, "Conservative Watch," documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right. Read other articles by Bill, or visit Bill's website.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Cornet Mustich said on May 20th, 2009 at 9:48am #

    Good column Bill!

    And kudos to New England, Iowa, and DC.

    Onward..

    Cheers, Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
    Washington CT USA

  2. Marco Luxe said on May 20th, 2009 at 11:15am #

    It is sadly ironic that latino leaders have joined the anti-gay fight because the case name first overturning state racial marriage classifications : Perez v. Lippold [Cal, 1948] Are the formerly oppressed always destined to oppress others?

  3. lichen said on May 20th, 2009 at 2:07pm #

    Rabbi Yehuda, you most certainly are a bigot, and I hope that your stupid schools do fail and you’re forced to realize that plenty of gay people, unfortunately, do believe in your pathetic religion(s). Furthermore, mutilating the genitals of young boys is a serious crime which should be banned immediately and permanently.

  4. Andrew said on May 20th, 2009 at 6:04pm #

    The rally against same-sex marriage in NYC is the perfect example on how most lazy people are also religious. These are the type of people that are too lazy to think on their own, and leaves the thinking to their pastors, and just goes with whatever their pastors say. Senator Rev. Diaz is nothing but a political/religious hypocrite. For Diaz to claim that Gov. Paterson is disrespecting religion is ridiculous, since Diaz is already on his second marriage. Whatever happened to “til death do us part”? When you get divorced, you are not respecting your original vows, therefore disrespecting the sanctity of marriage. I guess for Rev. Diaz, marriage is only important when it is convenient for himself. He is what I call a fake Christian – he uses his religion for his own means, and not to truly follow the Lord’s teachings, which includes respect, helping and caring for others, acceptance, and love. He uses religion to garner power for himself, and enslave the minds of people.

  5. David said on May 20th, 2009 at 10:30pm #

    This are civil Rights not Religious ceremonies, thousands of people get fired from jobs because their sexual orientation, some of them get kill or never being able to get a jot… Keep your own marriage from Divorce… Goverments who go to war and kill people to me that is a sin.. Not love between one and another…..

  6. David said on May 20th, 2009 at 10:32pm #

    Don’t use children for these ads, they don’t know…. t

  7. Jeff said on May 21st, 2009 at 6:53pm #

    The disgusting part is that the main people opposing this are the same people who were opprssed a few decades ago. It is really truly appalling the level of bigotry by the same people who were targets of the bigotry. Honestly, this truly makes me wonder if blacks even remember the fact that a few decades ago they were not allowed to marry whites. It’s unbelieveable. I am a person of compassion but this hatred almost wants me to wish that blacks were oppressed again. Maybe they would re-think their opposition to this and remember where they came from. Think about it! It really is truly astonishing to mee!

  8. Lori said on May 22nd, 2009 at 9:27am #

    Jeff,

    Not ALL black and brown are anti-gay. Your lumping us all together as if have a hive mentality is a function the very racism you think happened “a few decades ago.” I am black and pro-marriage and proud of it. I’m also religious. There are plenty of white evangelicals running around spewing their hateful, homophobic views, but I doubt you label ALL white as anti-gay, because of the actions of a few. The majority of the country is still white. The majority of resistance to gay marriage in this country comes from whites. Stop scapegoating black and brown people, who apparently once again are the cause of society’s evils. In spite of the fact, that it is a black governor who has once again introduced the gay marriage law.

  9. Jose said on May 25th, 2009 at 11:01pm #

    (It’s still legal – and always God-honoring – to air messages like the following. See Ezekiel 3:18-19. In light of government backing of raunchy behavior (such offenders were even executed in early America!), maybe the separation we really need is the “separation of raunch and state”!)

    In Luke 17 in the New Testament, Jesus said that one of the big “signs” that will happen shortly before His return to earth as Judge will be a repeat of the “days of Lot” (see Genesis 19 for details). So gays are actually helping to fulfill this same worldwide “sign” (and making the Bible even more believable!) and thus hurrying up the return of the Judge! They are accomplishing what many preachers haven’t accomplished! Gays couldn’t have accomplished this by just coming out of closets into bedrooms. Instead, they invented new architecture – you know, closets opening on to Main Streets where little kids would be able to watch naked men having sex with each other at festivals in places like San Francisco (where their underground saint – San Andreas – may soon get a big jolt out of what’s going on over his head!). Thanks, gays, for figuring out how to bring back our resurrected Saviour even quicker!

    [If you would care to learn about the depraved human “pigpen” that regularly occurs in Nancy Pelosi’s district in California, Google “Zombietime” and click on “Up Your Alley Fair” in the left column. And to think – horrors – that she is only two levels away from being President!]

  10. MTB said on June 2nd, 2009 at 9:03am #

    Rev. Diaz should consider the bible he preeches from by remembering before pulling the splinter from someone else’s eye, he should first remove the log from his own.

    The unwed hispanic birth rate is currently well out of control, and working in healthcare can tell you it’s very common for an unwed teen having a baby not to have the father at her side, hearing either he’s in prison or she wants nothing to do with him.

    The current welfare system is over burdened and the state budget is absolutely out of control, yet in his dilegence to bring the good word to his flock he’s forgetting to handle the problems facing him daily. The illeterate rate for hispanics is one of the highest in the country, and the birth rate is spiraling out of control.

    He wants to prevent my marriage, but he’s doing nothing to decrease the current unwed mother population of his own flock, and screams for additional public assistance for those in poverty, which is fine, but take the steps to prevent additional children being born into the welfare system. Take the steps to encourage marriage prior to pregnancy, and work to help reduce the number of people trapped in the welfare system through education and religious beliefs.

    Instead he points fingers at wealthy politicians and claims to be the poor mans advocate, yet as a Rev. he’s doing little or nothing to make a strong difference in his own Hispance Community. Below are current statistics:

    Hispanic women have the highest unmarried birthrate in the country—over three times that of whites and Asians, and nearly one and a half times that of black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Every 1,000 unmarried Hispanic women bore 92 children in 2003 (the latest year for which data exist), compared with 28 children for every 1,000 unmarried white women, 22 for every 1,000 unmarried Asian women, and 66 for every 1,000 unmarried black women. Forty-five percent of all Hispanic births occur outside of marriage, compared with 24 percent of white births and 15 percent of Asian births. Only the percentage of black out-of-wedlock births—68 percent—exceeds the Hispanic rate.

    These are national statistics gathered by the CDC, if he’s so worried about marriage why is his flock so affected by unwed child births?