Over the Christmas holiday, Christopher Lynn, a former top Giuliani aide and founding member of the gay and lesbian Stonewall Democratic Club in New York City, took one of his closest friends, a Democratic state senator, to a performance of Liza Minnelli’s Broadway show, Liza’s at the Palace … ! During the poignant rendition of Charles Aznavour’s drag-queen ballad, “What Makes a Man a Man?” (“I know my life is not a crime/ I’m just a victim of my time”), Lynn turned to his friend and saw that he was choked up. “Diaz was in tears,” says Lynn. Yes, that Diaz — Bronx senator Ruben Diaz Sr., the Pentecostal Puerto Rican minister and scourge of gay marriage.
Lynn, who was the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Giuliani administration, is counsel to Diaz’s Senate Aging Committee and perhaps Diaz’s most ardent defender. “He’s my friend, and I love him,” Lynn told New York. The two first met in 1993 as appointed members of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates allegations of police brutality. Before joining the board, Lynn says he was warned by then-Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer of Diaz’s hostility toward gay rights, but Lynn found Diaz to be a compassionate ally. Diaz supported Lynn’s demand that the board hire gay and lesbian investigators and joined Lynn in trying to expose abusive stop-and-frisks in the the Bronx’s 43rd precinct.
Their enduring friendship is a buddy comedy of sorts — but one that’s not so amusing to the gay-rights community. “Why would you put up with somebody who is so full of hate toward people like you?” asked a fellow Stonewall member who wished not to be identified. Diaz has been leading the charge against proposed legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in New York, organizing protest rallies around the city, and holding a sword over fellow Democratic senators who want the bill passed. In 1994, when the Gay Games came to New York, Diaz wrote that “You don’t have to be clairvoyant to realize that this can and will lead to sexual encounters with the risk of exposure to AIDS.” He later recanted, but recently griped of his opponents over marriage equality, “The gays are calling my office. They’re jamming my phones.”
Lynn, 59, is a former criminal-defense lawyer who describes himself as a “longtime gay activist with the scars to prove it.” He explains his loyalty to Diaz this way: “It’s a moral issue to Diaz. He’s not saying, ‘I castigate your lifestyle.’ He doesn’t say people who are opposed to him are sinners. He refuses to vote for something that he feels would imperil his soul. It has nothing to do with civil rights as far as Diaz is concerned. Rather than vilify people like Diaz, you have to appreciate the total human being.”
Diaz, who has not one but two gay brothers, says, “I’m not homophobic. I have a problem with gay marriage. I have no problem with gays.” Even Liza Minnelli won’t change his mind about that, but her deft, shaky hand did stroke at least some part of his soul. “It touched me, something touched me,” Diaz told New York about the performance that moved him to tears. “Something got to me.”