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Counter protesters in New York (AP/Photo by Robert Mecea)

Prayerful protest

Marriage | Hispanic Christians hold a rally protesting New York's pending same-sex marriage legislation

As the list of New England states legalizing same-sex marriage grows longer and the New York legislature draws closer to having its state join that list, a coalition of Hispanic Christians held a rally Sunday to protest.

The New York State Assembly passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage last week, with an 89-52 vote. The bill now moves to the state Senate, where Democrats hold a slender 32-30 majority, with Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz in vocal opposition to the bill.

The estimated 20,000 people attending the rally, which was sponsored by Radio Vision Cristiana International (RVC) and the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, threaded their way through barricaded sidewalks and past a small counter-protest with people holding signs that said, "Thank you Governor" and "Marriage is so gay." As the pro same-sex marriage protesters chanted, "Hate is a sin!" someone called back, "We don't hate you!" One woman took a breath long enough to reply, "Yes you do, and you're probably gay!" At the end of the line, a man holding a big "Thank you, Governor" banner told the anti same-sex marriage protesters, "God bless you," while another protestor shot back, "Adam and Eve!" A pro-gay marriage protester retorted, "God created Adam and Eve. Then he created Adam and Steve."

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The biblical sparring set the tone for the rally and its theological tones, including readings from Leviticus 18 and Romans 1. Dominican music set the beat, while a little girl on an adult's shoulders carried a bilingual sign: "Un Hombre and Una Mujer = Voluntad de Dios-One Man and One Woman = God's Will." Another sign read "No Cambie El Matrimonio-Don't Change Marriage." People waved Spanish-language Bibles. One sign quoted Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

Protestor Michael Mercado said, "We're just trying to get our voices heard, that society is trying to promote perversion as normal. . . . God loves the homosexuals. He loves the lesbians. He doesn't love the sin."

Another protestor, William Deliz, said they were motivated by "a zeal for God's order," and "If God had a design you can't break God's rule." While the other side chanted, "Hate is a sin," Deliz said, "True Christians do not hate anyone." In fact, he added, Christians say that gay people should love each other as long as it's agape (unconditional love) or phileo (brotherly love)-just not eros (physical love). He said he received a flyer with information on how to contact the Gov. David Paterson to express his views, and he was planning to do so.

While police continued to expand the barricades across the street to make room for more people, RVC board member Kittim Silva described the purpose of the event by saying, "It's not a combative presence, [but that] there's no human law that can deteriorate divine law." In comments directed toward the homosexual community, he said, "There's hope for you. There's change for you." Then, in a change of topic that elicited cheers from the audience, he directed questions to Gov. Paterson: "Why didn't you use your energies, your governmental strength to give immigrant status to those who are hardworking people?"

Most of the speeches were framed as long and passionate prayers, spoken in Spanish and translated into English. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, said, "The noise that we make is not political; it's worshipping the God of heaven." He prayed for mercy on Gov. Paterson, saying he was "doubly blind: physically blind, spiritually blind."

Gov. Paterson-the subject of many of the prayers-first prompted the issue in April, perhaps in an attempt to shore up his legacy since his approval ratings continue to plummet past historic lows. (A majority-51 percent-of New York voters actually prefers disgraced former Gov. Eliot Spitzer to Paterson.)

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found almost two-thirds (65 percent) of New Yorkers supporting same-sex civil unions, but evenly divided on the gay marriage issue, with 46 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving. This is an increase from four years ago, when a 2004 Quinnipiac University poll found that New York voters opposed same-sex marriage 55 to 37 percent.

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