New York Senator Ruben Diaz has called Governor David Paterson's Thursday announcement that he would re-introduce a gay marriage bill “desperate.”

“He's desperate,” Diaz, a Democrat, said Thursday during a meeting of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization. “I don't blame him because he's desperate. He's trying to bring up his poll numbers.”

Diaz, who represents the Bronx in the Senate and is an evangelical minister, heads the politically-influential religious group.

Calling gay marriage a civil rights issue, Paterson, a Democrat, said at a Thursday morning press conference that he would re-introduce a gay marriage bill in the General Assembly. It is the same bill Assembly members approved and Republican Senate leaders blocked in 2007. Despite newly-elected Democratic leadership in the Senate, gay marriage supporters concede they lack the votes to win passage.

Paterson's approval ratings have skidded below 20 percent in recent weeks and Diaz is not alone in questioning the governor's motives behind reviving the issue at this moment, just weeks after Iowa and Vermont legalized marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

The state's most vocal opponent on gay marriage demanded Paterson not run for re-election, saying he should step aside and let New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo take his place. He predicted big gains for the Republican Party otherwise. Cuomo also happens to agree with Diaz in opposing gay marriage.

Diaz also told reporters that a May rally of Latino churchgoers would debunk public opinion polls showing increasing support for gay marriage in the state. And added that the governor's timing on the issue was disrespectful to Catholics who had just installed Timothy Dolan as head of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York Wednesday.

“He's challenged the Christian movement,” Diaz said. “He's challenged the Christian believers. He's challenged the people that believe in the Bible. We are accepting the challenge.”

But on Tuesday, the day before his installation, Dolan told reporters that he would fight gay marriage.

“You can bet I will be active and present and, I hope, articulate in this position,” Dolan said. “The topic you raise [gay marriage] – other topics that are controversial, that the church has a message to give – yeah, you'll find that I don't shy away from those things and I wouldn't sidestep them.”