Marriage Equality Opponents Fire Salvos in New York



“We start the battle today,” declared New York state senator Ruben Díaz Sr., speaking mostly in Spanish to a crowd in Manhattan estimated by one NYPD officer to number 7,000, although it seemed considerably smaller. Despite high humidity and 90-plus-degree temperatures, the Democratic lawmaker and Pentecostal minister from the Bronx was dressed in jeans, a nylon windbreaker emblazoned with his name and office, and a white cowboy hat with a black band that read, “I (Heart) Jesus.”

The hat came in handy when the raindrops, which had been threatening all morning and early afternoon, seemed to finally become palpable the moment Díaz took the podium at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza just steps from United Nations headquarters. Less than four miles south at the city clerk’s main office, and throughout the other four New York City boroughs and all across the state, hundreds of same-sex couples celebrated the first day of the new marriage equality law with weddings, but the senator and other rally organizers expressed a different vision at their own protests, held under the slogan of “Let the People Vote” in Manhattan, Albany, Rochester, and Buffalo.

Their intention, in the words of Bishop Joseph Mattera from the Christ Covenant Coalition and senior pastor of the Resurrection Church, is “to force politicians to recognize the voice of the people.” He said from the small stage, “We have put them on notice today, that if they sell their votes, ‘We will vote you out.’” Attendees waved their thumbs down in response to symbolize ejection.

The rally, which followed a march up Third Avenue from the Midtown office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, vented outrage toward the governor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and even New York archbishop Timothy Dolan, who some claimed led a weak fight against the bill. Mostly, however, speakers denounced the Republican state Senate leadership and four members of that conference who they say betrayed them by providing the decisive votes for the marriage equality bill last month.

“Our first step is to demonstrate that it was a big mistake to vote for gay marriage, especially in the Republican Party,” said Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, in an interview after she addressed the rally. “Let’s take that first step and see how far we can take this.”

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