One of New York State Legislature's fiercest opponents of same-sex marriage took to the streets Sunday to lead a rally against its legalization.
State Senator Ruben Diaz of the Bronx directed the rally from Third Avenue and 149th Street to the concourse at the Bronx Supreme Court on 161st Street.
"We are fighting, we are expressing our position," he said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo began his push to legalize gay marriage earlier this month, saying it was a top priority for this legislative session, which ends June 20. But he's also been more cautious in recent days, saying he would not bring a bill to the Senate floor if its defeat was certain.
That's what happened when Cuomo's predecessor, David Paterson, tried to push same-sex legislation in 2009. The bill was defeated on the Senate floor in a vote of 38 to 24.
Sen. Diaz, who is also a church minister, had been one of the most outspoken critics of the bill during that session.
Before the rally, Diaz's granddaughter, Erica Diaz, called her own gathering to publicly oppose her grandfather and express support for the legislation of gay marriage. [Video above]
"I would like to say to Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz, who happens to be my grandfather, I love you, I respect you, and I adore you," she said. "However, you have your opinions, and I have mine."
She continued, "If you believe that by conducting such rallies, you are protecting the holy union called marriage, then I encourage you to use your time in a more efficient way. Again, I am not asking to be married in church, I am simply asking to reinforce my right to marry in a consensual manner with the woman who I love and who I want to spend the rest of my life with.
"I was born and raised in New York," she said. "I vow today that this is where I will get married, and that I will not be driven to another state to do so."
Erica later showed up to the rally gathering at Bronx Supreme Court with her supporters, though the crowd opposing same-sex marriage was considerably larger. Sen. Diaz estimated 1,000 people at the concourse, though the number could not be immediately verified.
Asked about his granddaughter's public statement, Sen. Diaz said, "I love her. The family's united. I not only have a granddaughter, I have brothers, I have nephews, I have in my family a few gays, a few lesbians. That doesn't mean that we have to hate each other... So, it's okay. I respect my granddaughter, I love her."
Sen. Diaz was joined at the rally by Brian Brown, president of the Washington-based National Organization for Marriage, which announced last week it was planning to spend $1.5 million toward fighting the legalization of gay marriage in New York.
The group takes credit for derailing a gay marriage bill in Maryland, and blocking a bill in Rhode Island this year, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, gay rights groups have been intensifying pressure on New York lawmakers to legalize gay marriage before session's end: Over 1,000 people converged on the state Capitol last Monday in support of gay rights, and pro-gay marriage groups have started releasing their own ads.
A NY1-Marist poll released Wednesday found 50 percent of New York adults think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry, while 25 percent said they supported civil unions but not marriage. The remaining 25 percent said there should be no legal recognition.