The gay marriage debate spilled onto the streets of New York Sunday as thousands rallied for and against the institution, reports New York-based gay weekly Gay City News.

Opponents staged their political rally turned church sermon on the steps of the Manhattan offices of New York Governor David Paterson.

Last month, the Democratic governor announced he would personally lobby for a gay marriage bill, adding he wanted the Senate to debate the issue even if it failed. Assembly members quickly approved the bill last Tuesday by a wide margin. Passage came as no surprise to Albany watchers who say the real fight lays ahead in the Senate.

New York's most vocal gay marriage opponent is a senator from the Bronx, Senator Ruben Diaz. Immediately after the governor announced he would personally shepherd the gay marriage bill through the Legislature, Diaz, a Pentecostal minister who heads the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, called for the anti-gay marriage rally.

“They accuse us of homophobia,” Diaz told an estimated crown of 20,000. “They accuse us of being radicals … They accuse us of many thing because they want to close the mouth of the church.”

“The sleeping giant has awakened and nothing can make him go back to sleep,” Diaz roared.

Speakers decried Paterson and his political allies for supporting gay marriage, saying they would be run out of town.

“The day will come when the hand of God shall use these people to take him out, out, out,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Ministers.

“The politicians are unleashing chaos on our children, on our families, and on our nation by redefining marriage. One thing stands in the way of this chaos – you,” Tony Perkins, president of the socially conservative Family Research Council, told the crowd.

The rally drew a crowd of mostly Latino churchgoers who danced, sang and waved Bibles in the air along five crowded city blocks.

In contrast, a pro-gay marriage rally drew less attention, taking only two city blocks near Times Square, but shined with star power.

The rally opened with a show tune by the Broadway cast of Hair, followed by openly lesbian Cynthia Nixon, star of Sex and the City. Finally, the politicos took the stage, including Governor Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, openly lesbian Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and openly gay state Senator Tom Duane. Duane, the sponsor of the gay marriage bill in the Senate, reassured the crowd that the bill would pass.

“And we're going to do it with bipartisan support,” Duane told a cheering crowd. “And we're going to do it with votes to spare. I promise.”