NEW YORK – Christians were among the thousands of New Yorkers that protested the new gay marriage law Sunday in a massive rally that spanned across four cities.
Protesters gathered at rallies held in Manhattan, Albany, Rochester and Buffalo demanding that state lawmakers put the gay marriage issue before voters by placing it on a statewide referendum. All four rallies kicked off at 3 p.m. and were streamed live on the "Let the People Vote" website.
"Let the people vote!" the crowds in all four cities chanted.
The "Let the People Vote!" rallies, organized by National Organization for Marriage, were timed to coincide with the first day the gay marriage law takes effect in New York. Before and during the protest, hundreds of same-sex couples lined outside city marriage bureaus in New York City and throughout the state for a chance to marry.
In Midtown Manhattan, thousands rallied outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo's New York City office then marched down 3rd Ave. in a line that spanned over several city blocks. Hector A. Chiesa, president of Radio Vision Cristiana 1330 AM, one of the largest Christian Spanish radio stations in New York, estimated that over 10,000 people showed up for the rally in Manhattan.
Christian protesters in the Manhattan rally were seen praying aloud before the procession began. A group of Hispanic Christians sang hymns and held their Bibles as they made their way down the street.
"Let the People Vote!" rallies in the other three cities had at least one Christian speaker address the crowd. Many protesters responded with "Amen" as several speakers led them in prayer to overturn the gay marriage law.
In Buffalo, the Rev. William Gillison, pastor of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, expressed his outrage at New York lawmakers who voted to legalize gay marriage.
"A handful of legislators paid no attention to millions of New Yorkers," said Gillison, standing outside Buffalo City Hall. "We are upset because you violated our law that is older and greater than New York."
The black pastor also criticized the religious exemptions in the gay marriage bill that are supposed to protect churches from being punished by the government or sued by same-sex couples if they refuse to perform gay marriages.
"You say that the church now has special protections. Before you voted, we didn't need special protections. We were already protected by the existing law," said Gillison, who was cheered on by the crowd throughout his speech.
At the Rochester rally outside Liberty Pole, speakers blasted the new law, saying it went against the biblical definition of marriage.
Unlike other states like California, New York does not allow the people to directly petition to put the gay marriage issue on a ballot referendum. In order for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to get on the ballot, a simple majority in both the state House and Senate needs to vote to put the issue before 20 million New Yorkers.
Despite polls saying that a majority of New Yorkers support same-sex marriage, opponents of gay marriage say they are confident the people will uphold traditional marriage if they are allowed a vote. No state has ever approved gay marriage when the issue was put before voters.
One main objective of Sunday's rallies is to initiate a movement against lawmakers who voted in favor of gay marriage. Traditional marriage supporters said they hope to vote those lawmakers out of office in the 2012 election so that they can get the issue on the ballot by 2015 or 2016.
In Albany, speakers urged protesters to remain vigilant about the gay marriage issue and also encouraged "people who love God" to run for office.
Those who joined in the rallies Sunday were encouraged to text "NYVOTE" to 96362 in order to receive updates on upcoming events and protests opposing gay marriage.
Rally speakers told protesters that they want to start a "movement" to fight gay marriage rather than limit the protest to a one-day event.
On the Web: For more information, visit Let the People Vote's website.