Players: New York Senator Ruben Diaz; Steven Thrasher and The Village Voice; Marjorie Hill, CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis
Background: Last month at the Village Voice's Runnin' Scared blog, Stephen Thrasher spotlighted Ruben Diaz's effort to stifle gay rights despite his close relationship to several gay people in a post entitled "Ruben Diaz: Gay Marriage Over My Dead Body." Trasher noted Diaz's plans to hold an anti-gay marriage march on the same day as New York's annual AIDS Walk and suggested he timed his march strategically, knowing that gay activists would either have to abandon the AIDS walk or not protest the march.
Diaz, angered in particular by comments on Thrasher's post such as, "Hopefully, Ruben Diaz will very shortly die of natural causes," wrote a letter to the Voice's editors.
Would the authors and editors at the Village Voice have been so quick to tolerate any comments hoping for the demise or imminent death of one of their favorite political leaders? Or perhaps their purpose really was to draw out and encourage criminal acts by your readers.
If the "affront" to my personal safety wasn't enough, it was embodied in an article that was so poorly researched. The two factual errors come to mind: first of all, if as you say my chief-of-staff is gay, no one has bothered to tell her. Also, if any of your readers are interested in attending a counter-demonstration, they shouldn't bother taking your directions to gather at 181st Street expecting the end of our rally there, I and the thousands of New Yorkers who believe in respect for human life and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman will be found praying near the Bronx County Courthouse at 161st Street and the Grand Concourse.
It's so sad to see people in journalism abuse their positions, but it's outrageous to see how the editors of the Village Voice use their editorial discretion to facilitate and encourage homicide.
Opening Serve: This week, Diaz issued a statement clarifying that his rally, in fact, will go on. According to Thrasher, his press release announced, "I'd also like to clarify some loathsome accusations about our May 15th Rally coinciding with the New York AIDS Walk. Our Rally for Traditional Marriage will include thousands of New Yorkers who support AIDS programs and AIDS victims. No one has the right to accuse people who attend our rally of opposing AIDS victims or programs that help AIDS victims and their families." He also clarifies that "Everyone who participates in the March Against AIDS is not necessarily in support of gay marriage. There's a huge difference between the March Against AIDS and our Rally. One has nothing to do with another."
Return Volley: Marjorie Hill, CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis, an HIV treatment and prevention advocacy group, got involved today with a response to Diaz's press release. "We are distressed that Senator Diaz would focus his attention on increasing homophobia which is a lethal driver of the HIV/AIDS epidemic," she writes. "From our work each day, we know that homophobia and stigma still affect people living with HIV/AIDS and can create barriers to accessing healthcare and support." She encouraged New Yorkers "to show support for people affected by HIV/AIDS and solidarity for same-sex couples who will soon have the same human rights as heterosexual couples."
What They Say the Fight's About: On the surface, the fight seems to be a competition over who has a right to hold their rally on May 15. Hill and The Village Voice, which is a media sponsor of the AIDS Walk, are frustrated that Diaz's effort will, unavoidably, interfere with the AIDS Walk.
What the Fight's Really About: Knowing your constituency. Diaz's district is in the Bronx, which has long been the New York borough with the highest AIDS rate. Thrasher, indeed, notes that "[Diaz's] HIV positive constituents are among the most likely to benefit from the fundraising efforts of the AIDS Walk." And Hill's mention of studies that observe the correlation between homophobia and AIDS, such as this one, make Diaz's argument that the two are completely unrelated sound a bit tone deaf.
Who's Winning: This is to be determined by the turnout at the simultaneous gatherings on May 15 and, ultimately, by the future of gay rights. But, according to Nate Silver's calculations, a majority of Americans already disagree with Diaz.