Anti-LGBTQ City Councilmembers Ruben Diaz, Sr., of the Bronx and Chaim Deutsch of Brooklyn are reaching across boroughs and pooling their homophobia together in one united show of force ahead of their respective Democratic primary races for Congress in June.
The allies — who are among the city lawmakers most hostile to queer rights — co-endorsed each other in a March 3 Twitter post that included a photo of the conservative lawmakers smiling with their hands joined in unison.
Diaz’s tweet, retweeted by Deutsch, stated, “Bronx and Brooklyn. Puerto Rico and Romania. Christian and Jewish. Council Member Chaim Deutsch is a colleague and friend from a different path but we are headed towards the same goal! Proud to announce our mutual endorsements for US Congress!”
Diaz is running to replace outgoing Congressmember José E. Serrano in Bronx’s 15th Congressional District in a crowded race featuring out gay Bronx Councilmember Ritchie Torres, former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Bronx Assemblymember Michael Blake, activist Samelys López, and Manhattan Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, among others.
Down in Brooklyn, Deutsch is touting his conservative agenda in a bid to unseat incumbent Congressmember Yvette Clarke, who is also facing a challenger to her left, Adem Bunkeddeko, in Brooklyn’s Ninth Congressional District. During this primary campaign Clarke and Bunkeddeko have both pointed to Gay City News’ reporting on Deutsch’s homophobia in fundraising emails to their supporters.
Torres, the first out LGBTQ elected official in the history of the Bronx, appeared to have cordial relations with Deutsch in the past. It was less than a year ago when Torres took to Twitter to wish Deutsch a happy birthday with balloons and birthday cake emojis, and Deutsch at one point described Torres as his “esteemed colleague.”
But now it appears things have changed.
Deutsch’s homophobic reputation surfaced in the Bronx congressional race when Mark-Viverito admitted in a recent Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City questionnaire that she had supported anti-LGBTQ lawmakers in the past, which Gay City News first reported when the former Council speaker answered the same club’s questionnaire during her previous campaign for public advocate. Mark-Viverito donated to Deutsch in his first campaign for the Council in 2013 and endorsed him when he ran for re-election four years later.
But Torres, who declined comment for this story, was not afraid to rip Mark-Viverito for supporting Deutsch, telling the Daily News in October, “You can either be pro-LGBT or you can contribute to anti-LGBT candidates, but you cannot be both.”
Now, of course, Deutsch is responding by throwing his support behind Torres’ anti-LGBTQ opponent.
Diaz and Deutsch’s partnership came as little surprise. The pair of elected officials have resisted LGBTQ rights advances throughout their careers, and Diaz was a driving force against the effort to usher in same-sex marriage rights in New York when he was a state senator. Deutsch, meanwhile, once attacked a debate opponent for having the support of an organization he said had an “agenda with gays and lesbians,” and he has repeatedly cast votes against queer rights legislation, including a bill to ban on conversion therapy in New York City.
The out lesbian former president and founding director of the New York City Veterans’ Alliance, Kristen Rouse, told Gay City News that Deutsch, who chairs the Council’s Veterans’ Committee, made inappropriate homophobic comments to her and told her “that he cannot be seen supporting the equality of LGBTQ individuals, even if they are veterans.”
The friendly relationship between Deutsch and Diaz is not new. Deutsch was there for his cowboy hat-wearing colleague last February when he was the only city lawmaker to vote against the dissolving of Diaz’s committee in response to homophobic comments the Bronx politician made about the City Council.
“When I get to the City Council, I find that the City Council is controlled — most councilmembers out of 51 councilmembers — over there, everybody is controlled by the homosexual community,” Diaz said last year.
During a 40-minute interview with Gay City News last year, Diaz doubled down on those remarks.
“What is wrong with what I said?” he asked this reporter. “That the gay community has power and control? Yes, they do!”
Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, continued, “I don’t believe in gay marriage, I don’t believe in abortion, I don’t believe in drinking, I don’t believe in smoking, and I don’t believe in dancing.”
Despite all those inflammatory remarks, Diaz has maintained a vibrant base of supporters in his district — so much so that he has a decent shot at elevating his homophobia to Capitol Hill, even as Torres outpaces him with a significant fundraising advantage.
The question now is whether Deutsch and Diaz’s mutual endorsement will benefit their respective quests to inject New York Democratic congressional delegation with a double dose of homophobia later this year.