In an unusual move for a Democrat, New York state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. has praised Obama's controversial pick of Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation prayer at his inauguration.

Senator Diaz of the Bronx is a member of the so called Gang of Three. He, along with Senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr. and Senator Carl Krugen of Brooklyn, sought to trade their support of Malcolm A. Smith as Senate leader for a promise to kill a gay marriage bill in the chamber. An initial New York Daily News story suggested Diaz had succeeded, but the deal, brokered by New York Governor David A Paterson, never materialized.

Infuriated gay activists flooded Diaz's office with angry emails, telephone calls and letters in the days that followed the reporting.

“By rejecting the call to dis-invite Reverend Warren and by welcoming him to deliver the inauguration ceremony's invocation in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama has sent a message of inclusion,” Diaz said in a statement.

Warren's anti-gay biography was quickly compiled and posted by gay blogs and left media starting December 17, the day his selection was announced. That record includes: The banning of gays and lesbians from membership in his Southern California Saddleback megachurch, supporting the controversial ex-gay movement that claims gays can be “cured” through prayer, and, most importantly, supporting the passage of Proposition 8 – the California constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that has sparked national, even international, protests.

Warren's support for the measure included likening gay marriage to an incestuous relationship, pedophilia and even polygamy. In a recent video released Sunday, however, Warren has distanced himself from those homophobic statements, saying “I love gays.”

But Diaz praised Warren for his strong opposition to gay relationships and abortion.

“To some people, if you oppose homosexual marriage and abortion, you are not a Democrat and you are certainly not to be invited to deliver an inaugural invocation,” he said.

Such statements fan the rumors that Diaz is unhappy with the Democratic Party and might possibly bolt to the Republicans, who have enshrined anti-gay and anti-choice language in their Party platform.

Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian gay rights advocate, called the Warren choice “disrespectful” of gays, while openly gay Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank (Democrat) said the pick was a mistake.