Ruben Diaz to Tom Duane: Put Up or ‘Shut Up’

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Photo: Getty Images

Anti-gay State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. released a statement just now calling for fellow senator Tom Duane to release the names of all of their colleagues who Duane has said privately assured him they'd vote for Governor Paterson's marriage-equality bill. "If Senator Tom Duane has the necessary Senate votes to pass the homosexual marriage bill in New York State, then he should release the names of those Senators who are supporting the bill," Diaz said. "If not, he should shut up." The Bronx minister is banking on the fact that he's calling Duane's bluff and the marriage-equality advocate doesn't really have the votes, but is just trying to get the bill on the floor. NY1 released numbers that seem to indicate Diaz is probably right.

According to NY1, twenty Democrats are on the record saying they'd vote for marriage equality. Twenty-eight senators (22 Republicans, 6 Democrats) say they'd vote against it. Nine say they are undecided, and five just won't tell how they're going to vote. All Diaz and his fellow opponents need is three more votes to kill the bill, a number that appears a lot more achievable than the twelve that proponents need to earn. "Any Senator who commits himself or herself to something, should be man or woman enough to take a stand and stand by his or her convictions," Diaz argues. "If they give their word to support something that they are ashamed of, then that is a hypocrisy, and could be interpreted as not wanting to be associated with the matter."

This is certainly true — but Diaz has been in Albany for nearly seven years, and this posturing belies what he knows about the system up there. For one thing, there is safety in numbers. If a Republican were to come out today and say he is for marriage equality, he would risk making a name as a gay rights pioneer, something that a conservative district might not look on too fondly. If he votes for it with 32 other state senators, it's less likely to cause a stir. Likewise, as Rochester-area Republican Jim Alesi points out, coming out in favor of the bill will just make Democratic Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's job easier — something no member of the newly minority GOP in the Senate wants to do. "Since we haven't been receiving the kind of help that I think that we should be afforded as members of the Senate from this new majority, I'm not in any way shape or form wanting to make it easy for him to decide whether he's gonna bring that bill to the floor or not," he told NY1. Whether in the end he'll vote with his conscience to aid gay couples is a different story — at least in the logic of Albany.

"It is a disgrace that Senator Duane is playing this mind game with his colleagues and with the public," Diaz says. "If Senator Duane has the votes, he should release the names. If not, then he should be ashamed of himself." But the fact of the matter is, the only reason we are subject to this kind of childish pre-vote vote counting is because Diaz himself made Malcolm Smith promise he wouldn't put the bill to the floor unless he had the votes. He held his and his fellow renegade Democrats' participation in the party caucus for ransom over the issue. Therefore, it seems obvious that the responsibility for vote counting should fall on Diaz's shoulders, not the shoulders of marriage-equality proponents. He's the one who took the fight off the floor, where it belongs, in the first place. Duane may be claiming to have the numbers, but by insisting it stay away from a vote, Diaz is doing the same by default.

Now, granted, this would all be solved (as the majority of New Yorkers want it to be) if Malcolm Smith just manned up, defied Diaz, and put the bill to a vote — you know, the way democracy is supposed to work. Until then, though, as far as we're concerned, both Senators Duane and Diaz are free to bluster, connive, and hustle all they want — that's how Albany works, after all. The only thing that's a "mind game" is to pretend to be surprised by it.

Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz to Senator Tom Duane: Release the Names or Shut Up [Senator Ruben Diaz]
Survey Of State Senators Shows Gay Marriage Bill In Jeopardy [NY1]
Earlier: State Senator Tom Duane: We Have the Votes to Pass Marriage Equality
Related: Gay Math: Running the Marriage Numbers in Albany [NYM]