At a Sunday rally in the Bronx where New York state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., an ardent opponent of gay marriage, had gathered his supporters to oppose an effort to make New York the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, the Pentecostal minister hugged his lesbian granddaughter and told the crowd that he loved her.

As the senator addressed the crowd, Erica Diaz, 22, left a nearby counter protest to interrupt her grandfather. She later said she wanted the crowd to know whom they were opposing.

Ms. Diaz told the New York Daily News that she was booted out of the Navy for violating the military's policy against openly gay troops, known as “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” and wanted to marry her girlfriend of two years, 27-year-old Naomi Torres, with whom she attended the counter protest.

“This is my granddaughter,” Mr. Diaz told the crowd as he drew her in for a hug. “I love her. I love her. I love her. I respect her decisions. She does what she wants.”

“If you think that in our family, there is hatred, and there is no love, you are wrong,” he added to cheers from the crowd estimated in the thousands. “Because I love my granddaughter.”

However, in comments to the paper, Mr. Diaz said he would not be present to witness his granddaughter tie the knot.

“I would not go the wedding,” he said. “But I would respect her decision.”

Ms. Diaz said she respected the senator, who also has 2 gay brothers, but added that his disapproval hurt.

“He's not homophobic. He's just against us getting married,” she said. “I respect that he's firm on what he believes in, but it bothers me. It hurts.”