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The issue of gay marriage has reared its head in one of the most contested judicial races this summer between Renier Diaz de la Portilla, who served in the state Legislature and on the Miami-Dade School District Board, and Veronica Diaz, an assistant city attorney for Miami.
The partner of an adviser to Diaz’s campaign filed a complaint with the Florida Bar that Diaz de la Portilla stated in public he was against same-sex marriage outside the West Dade Regional Library, which was conducting early voting on Aug. 13.
Judicial candidates are prohibited under Bar Rule 4-8.2 from stating issues before the court. Two constitutional challenges to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage are in front of the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami.
According to the sworn complaint, Diaz de la Portilla and the Diaz campaign had an exchange over gay marriage policy at the election poll.
Diaz de la Portilla claims he never made the comment and that it is an 11th-hour stunt to distract from the ethics investigations into his opponent that she steered city business to her boyfriend’s law firm and accepted free tickets to the Ultra music festival. He said he plans on filing his own complaint with the Bar against Diaz on those issues.
“There is no equivalency here,” said Diaz de La Portilla, who claimed the complaint is frivolous. He noted that he did not receive the endorsement of the Christian Family Coalition, which has used the gay marriage issue as a litmus test for candidates.
The Bar complaint was filed Aug. 15 by Heather L. Gray, the partner of Vanessa Brito, a community activist who is advising the Diaz campaign.
The affidavit was stamped by a notary public in the law office of Benjamin Alvarez, who is Diaz’s boyfriend, Diaz de la Portilla said.
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust Commission investigated whether Diaz steered city business to Alvarez’s law firm, but found that since they weren’t married a nepotism policy didn’t apply.
An internal investigation found Diaz committed no wrongdoing in accepting the tickets but might face another inquiry from the commission.
According to Gray, a voter at the election poll asked Diaz whether she supported gay marriage and the candidate said she was prohibited from taking a position. De La Portilla, who was also present, then told the voter to ask Diaz who has endorsed her and then stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, Gray said.
Diaz has received the support of SAVE Dade, a group that supports gay marriage.
“He was very aggressive about it. He wasn’t polite,” Gray said. “He apparently didn’t know who I am. I am a member of the gay community and what he did was extremely insulting.”
Diaz said her opponent is not telling the truth that the incident never occurred.
“I was completely shocked and deeply troubled when the incident occurred, although I am not surprised that he is now denying it. It shows to what depths he has resorted to in his attempt to discredit me and win this election,” she said.