NY State’s Senate Leader Won’t Stand With Anti-Gay Bigot

Posted on 13 Aug 2010 at 6:44pm

Video courtesy of Natasha Dillon, Queer Rising.

I’ve seen more than a few people opine that demonstrating, protesting and taking to the streets, or making our professed allies uncomfortable with our unapologetic demands are pointless, outdated, no longer effective, or counter productive.

In the past weeks, New York LGBT activists put that idea to a test, and pulled out a great symbolic win. In New York, battlelines are being sharply drawn between bigotry and equality. And leadership is losing the will to stand with bigotry, no matter how well entrenched its proponents are, or that they share a party. Last night, Democratic Senate Majority leader John Sampson ducked for cover rather than be the target of the raucous scene created by Queer Rising.

It’s a big symbolic win for the LGBT community in New York state.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos, please rec if you can.
The background is, there was a fundraiser last night for New York State Seantor Ruben Diaz. A Pentecostal minister, Diaz has been the single biggest impediment to the progress of LGBT affirmative legislation in New York state. He stood alone on the Senate floor and urged a no vote on the historic marriage equality bill last December. Unfortunately, despite a dozen senators taking to the floor in suport of equality, and only one Senator speaking against it, the vote failed.

Just this June, Diaz also used his committee position to vote down the movement of GENDA bill, which would have extended discrimination protection to the transgender community. (Yes, NY still does not have that, shamefully.)

Increasingly, the LGBT community is recognizing that equality in New York State can not move forward, so long a Diaz remains in the Senate. Removing Diaz is the single biggest victory LGBT New Yorkers, and their supporters, could score.

When local LGBT activists got wind that New York State Senate Majority Leader John Sampson lent his name and planned to co-host a fundraiser for Daiz, Queer Rising planned a protest. It’s all well and good to protest Diaz himself, but he is frankly, unreachable. He has told supporters:

“These election results will be vital to us as Christians and God-fearing people to keep our family, moral and traditional values that our ancestors left us and that the Bible teaches us.”

Another politician who can’t distinguish the Bible from the Constitution, or Democracy from Theocracy.

So activists have expanded their focus to include John Sampson’s complicity with LGBT disenfranchisement. The message: you can’t have it both ways any longer. You cannot stand with our community, and with those who fight us.

And looks like the pressure worked. The Advocate reports today:

New York state senate majority leader John Sampson, under fire from gay activists for his support of Democratic colleagues who voted against marriage equality, did not attend a re-election fund-raiser for state senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. on Thursday.

Sen. Sampson lent his name as a cohost of the fund-raiser, which activist group Queer Rising protested on a dreary late afternoon in the Bronx. Organizer Natasha Dillon told The Advocate that Sampson did not show, and that the only state senator seen was the troubled Pedro Espada, Jr., who faces a strong primary challenge and is under state and federal investigation.

Sampson is quoted in the Advocate article as saying he supports Diaz, and had a prior outstanding commitment. (Spending time with the family, perhaps?) But the article goes on to describe a recent meeting with New York Stonewall Democrats that gave Sampson a particularly hard time about simultaneously supporting marriage equality, and the reelection bids of those Democrats who would vote against it, including Diaz and Shirley Huntley of Queens, who is facing a serious primary challenger in Lynn Nunes.

Elizabeth Benjamin reported in The New York Daily News Monday:

Dem leader John Sampson gets a nasty earful from disgruntled LGBT activists

Furious gay advocates gave Senate Democratic leader John Sampson an earful in Brooklyn in an angry exchange that got so heated Sampson threatened to walk out.

He didn’t.

Nor did he budge on the advocates’ key issues during the two-hour meeting with the Stonewall Democratic Club.

Sampson has angered gay advocates with his pledge to support all Senate Dems seeking reelection, including the six who voted against the same-sex marriage bill, killing it, 38 to 24.

He’s also refused to promise to put the controversial bill up for another vote.

Granted, Sampson taking a pass won’t seriously affect Diaz’ fundraising numbers. And as handily as Diaz has won in the past, it’s unlikely to have an effect on the vote. Many in the equality-minded New Yorkers may need to resign themselves the the Diaz theocratic machine is unstoppable this cycle.

But politics is a game of alliances and who you stand with. Sampson, the Leader of the Senate, declined to stand with Rueben Diaz last night. And if Diaz returns to Albany next year, he will find himself increasingly marginalized. He is losing allies. His outdated, theocratic ideals are isolating him.

That’s the beauty of this symbolic victory. New York’s LGBT community, challenged Sampson, you can stand with equality or you can stand with bigotry. But you cannot stand for both. New York’s LGBT community has become very aggressive about pursuing equality. Fight Back New York PAC is one such effort that is spear-heading a “Send ‘em Packing” campaign, among others. They are well-funded, organized, strategically smart, and are already reverberating as a player.

State politicos also watched as the LGBT community played a key part in 86-ing Harold Ford’s hopes of unseating fierce LGBT rights advocate Kirsten Gillibrand from her US Senate seat, they roared to Gillibrand’s defense and Ford was dispensed with quickly.

So, Sampson made his choice, he ran for cover from the fire of LGBT activists.

He recognized that long-time stalwart of the Senate Diaz is on his way out. He may win in November, but he is already marginalized. Diaz’s criminal little BFF Hiram Monserrate has been run out of Albany on a rail. (Diaz was one of only 8 Senators to vote in support of Monserrate over a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend, while 53 voted for expulsion.) Other members of the corrupt little cabal Diaz runs with are living on borrowed time and Democratic machine inertia.

This cycle, Diaz has a primary challenger, a man named Charlie Ramos, who has been unambiguous in expressing his support for bringing marriage equality to New York and for the LGBT community in general. I’m sure he sees an opening, and equality minded New Yorkers would do well to escort him through it. Charlie Ramos’ campaign site is here, his Facebook page is here, his Actblue page is here.

The victory of bringing marriage equality to one of the most populist and influential states in the union, may even be worth a few out of staters breaking him off some buck (as this NYer did for Prop 8), or phonebank on his behalf. Ramos prevailing in the primary contest would play a very key part in moving LGBT politics forward in New York state, and ultimately the nation.

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