The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate, will directly campaign against New York state senators opposed to the legalization of gay marriage.

The Campaign for New York Marriage will be headed by Brian Ellner, a former aide of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the group announced Friday.

Ellner told the New York Times that he views his position as “an opportunity to build on solid work that has come before.”

Ellner, who was considered the top candidate to head New York-based gay rights group the Empire State Pride Agenda, was pressured to withdraw his name from consideration after some gay advocates questioned his links to Mayor Bloomberg, a supporter of gay marriage but also a major donor to the Republican Party.

HRC has previously limited itself to endorsing federal-level candidates in the state, including campaigning for the reelection of New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, Democrats who support gay rights, and yielded to local groups on the issue of gay marriage.

But HRC president Joe Solmonese said New York was “at a critical tipping point in securing marriage equality and November's elections hold the key.”

“Make no mistake,” he warned, “ if you oppose marriage equality, we are coming to get you.”

Possible targets on the group's list most likely include state Senate Democrats who crossed the aisle to join all Republicans in defeating a gay marriage bill last December, including Senators Ruben Diaz Jr., the face of opposition to gay marriage in the Legislature, Joseph Addabbo and William Stachowski.

HRC's entry into the marriage debate in New York might threaten donor rolls at existing New York marriage equality groups the Empire State Pride Agenda and Fight Back New York. Especially vulnerable is the Empire State Pride Agenda, whose former executive director Alan Van Capelle was fond of quoting Senator Tom Duane, who is openly gay/HIV-positive, saying he had the votes needed in the Senate to approve the gay marriage bill. Duane expressed anger and disappointment when eight senators voted against the measure, and claimed he had been deceived.

The group has already drawn praise from local gay leaders, including Duane, who called the news “terrific” and openly gay City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, who praised Ellner as “a great addition to the HRC team.”