At a time when anti-lesbian and anti-gay violence is on the rise, says New York City's Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, it is "particularly important" that those who perpetrate bigotry "be criticized in the strongest possible terms."
Mr. Hevesi has now joined the city's Public Advocate, Mark Green; the Manhattan Borough President, Ruth Messinger; the City Council member Thomas Duane, and a growing number of other officials who have unequivocally denounced the homophobic rhetoric spewed by the Rev. Ruben Diaz -- and called for his resignation from the city's Police Civilian Complaint Review Board. Sadly, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Council Speaker Peter Vallone have yet to demonstrate the same leadership.
Putting his prejudice on parade, Mr. Diaz recently warned that the upcoming Gay and Lesbian Olympic Games in the city could lead to public nudity, open sex and the spread of AIDS, while giving children who view the competition a positive view of homosexuality.
Mr. Vallone, more concerned about offending the Bronx Council delegation, which nominated Mr. Diaz to the Review Board, than mindful of his duty to condemn publicly a hateful display of ignorance, says he has expressed his disagreement with Mr. Diaz privately to the Mayor.
Mr. Giuliani says he, too, disagrees with the statements of Mr. Diaz, an important political supporter during last year's mayoral election. Realistically, only mayoral pressure is likely to sway Mr. Diaz. Yet Mr. Giuliani refuses to call on him to resign from the Review Board, and persists in attributing the outrageous statements to "his religious and moral point of view."
That amounts to dignifying bigotry. The homophobia so proudly displayed by Mr. Diaz will inevitably undermine the Review Board's credibility in investigating complaints of police abuse. It is hard to have any faith in Mr. Diaz's ability to render a fair and impartial decision in cases involving homosexuals, lesbians or people with AIDS.
In January Mr. Giuliani helped force the resignation of the new chairman of the city's Campaign Finance Board, rightly believing the 11th-hour appointment by outgoing Mayor David Dinkins posed a threat to that board's integrity. The threat to the police Complaint Review Board is no less real. Where is the Mayor's sense of outrage now?