NEW YORK CITY - Protestors on both sides of the gay marriage issue turned out in Manhattan, Sunday, as the New York state Senate may soon consider legalizing same sex marriage.
Tens of thousands turned out for a rally originally meant to give Hispanic Christians a chance to show they aren't happy their governor is pushing and state assembly has voted to legalize gay marriage.
State Sen. Ruben Diaz is a Democrat, but also a Pentecostal pastor and one of the main organizers of the rally. He warned though Hispanics like to vote Democrat, they're getting mad over how many elected Democrats are backing same sex marriage. Pointing at the thousands of Latinos rallying around him, he said, "I tell the Democratic Party, if they don't shape up, they're going to lose a lot of people here."
Diaz also shot a warning right across Gov. David Paterson's bow, saying, "If you will not respect us, I will ask you to resign."
Pastor Daniel Delgado of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference pointed out overwhelmingly Latino support helped elect Barack Obama. But now Latino
Christians feel their religious rights are being disrespected.
"There's a lot of power in Latino evangelicals and along with all the people that come with us," Delgado said. "Now, if you're not going to be defending our rights, we guarantee that you're going to be voted out."
Two Sides Argue Over Rights
While these Hispanics and their allies filled five blocks on Third Avenue, stretching from 35th to 40th, a couple of streets away, gays and their allies launched a large counter-demonstration. Among them was First Lieutenant Daniel Choi, a West Point graduate who the Army's booting out after he came out about his homosexuality.
"Equal rights must apply to everyone equally, that there should be no discrimination," Choi argued. "That's the thing that Americans do. That's the thing that Jesus would do."
Pastor Delgado shot back that there's no discrimination from the Christians' side.
"We're not here because we're anti-gay or we're bigots. No, we're here because this is a religious freedom issue. They're trying to re-define the text...the holy text...of what marriage is, and that affects all the faiths," he said.
Of the homosexual protestors, Delgado added that, "I may not agree with the way they're living. But I can't dictate to them, the same way we don't want them dictating to us to redefine marriage."
Queens borough evangelist Diane Rivera said those who believe in the Bible must stand against society blessing gay marriage since the Bible is so clear about homosexuality.
"Because the Bible is against this sin, because the Bible clearly spoke against it in Romans 1:27 and First Corinthians 6:9," she explained. "We have to be clear and stand along with the Bible and not go with the status quo of the flow."
Tearing the Fabric of Society?
"God instituted marriage between man and woman to be the fabric of our society," Delgado pointed out. "So if you redefine that, what you do is, you're tearing the fabric of our society and you're going to create civil disorder, which we saw in Greece, we saw it in Rome, and we've seen it historically. If we don't learn from our past, we're going to destroy our future."
The issue of gay marriage now hangs in the state Senate. The state Assembly voted last week to legalize it 89-52. But it needs 32 votes to pass the senate. There are 32 Democrats in the senate, but that doesn't make it an automatic lock.
Sen. Diaz says he knows of six Democrat senators who want to vote against gay marriage.
Pastor Jason McGuire is the legislative director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms.
"The Democratic conference is so divided right now, that there are several Democrat senators who do not want to vote for this bill. Now they're under intense pressure to flip on this issue," he said. "But I tell you, if we have that many in the Democratic conference and our Republicans are hanging tight, we're going to block this bill in New York."
McGuire added that his organization is spearheading a movement to keep pressure on the lawmakers during the six weeks the legislature is still in session to make sure the gay marriage bill is defeated.
Divisive Issue Causing Unity
Meanwhile, religious believers at the rally said the one good thing about this issue is how its bringing people together in a rare unity that crosses religious, racial and political lines.
"It's not just Republicans or Democrats," McGuire said. "It's Latinos, Hispanics, Asians, blacks, whites: we're all coming together on the traditional definition of marriage."
"For believers it's not about Democrat or Republican or liberal. It's about the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God is suffering violence," Delgado added.
Which is what upsets Diane Rivera. The evangelist's voice rose and she wagged her finger as she condemned politicians backing gay marriage because they're afraid to stand up against the powerful homosexual rights lobby.
"And while the church is here, until Jesus Christ comes to lift us out of this place, we will be respected and they will hear our voice and know that they are wrong, and God is right, and because we're on God's side, we're right," she shouted.
Same-sex marriage has already been legalized in five states. The believers in traditional marriage at this Manhattan rally say they'll do whatever it takes to make sure New York doesn't become the sixth.
Another big rally is planned for June 9 on the east steps of the capitol building in Albany.