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Gay Marriage Opponents Protest Sunday

By DNAinfo Staff on July 24, 2011 7:49am  | Updated on July 24, 2011 10:03pm

A protester opposed to gay marriage carries signs behind a barricade at Foley Square at Worth and Centre streets, July 24, 2011.
A protester opposed to gay marriage carries signs behind a barricade at Foley Square at Worth and Centre streets, July 24, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

By Della Hasselle, Dan Marrin, and Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — Opponents of the state's recently-passed same-sex marriage law added their voice to the mix Sunday.

More than a dozen protesters holding signs that read "God hates F-gs" and "F-gs are beasts" gathered at Foley Square at Worth and Centre streets, across the street from the Manhattan Clerk's Office before 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

The group is part of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, KS, known for a Supreme Court ruling that allowed them to protest military funerals despite the fact that some see it as hate speech.

"Why do you think we're here?" said Benjamin Phelps, whose family founded the Westboro Baptist Church, "This is an abomination."

Their arrival prompted the six dozen couples on line for New York's first day of gay marriage to burst out into song, including "Chapel of Love" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Counter-protesters opened up umbrellas in a line alongside the couples getting married, to block their view of the protest signs.

"We can thank them for attending our wedding," said Kawane Harris, who was standing in line to get married alongside her bride, Jeanette Coleman.

"Yes, those are the only words I have for them," Coleman added. "Protesters are present at occasions that matter. So the more, the merrier. You can't ruin my day today. What they're doing is not stopping what's happening here."

"They're our last concern today," Coleman added.

Later, about a thousand protesters descended on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office to march to the United Nations Sunday afternoon demanding a public referendum on whether to revoke the measure.

“We believe the [state] senate stole our right to decide the direction of our culture," said Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative. 

But Louis Flores, 38, coordinator for the Connecting Rainbows Organization said: "We are hear to say no to the hate and bigotry! Today is a historic day for LGBT civil rights and the law is on our side."

State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx), who has been among the most vocal opponents of same sex marriage, had urged fellow protesters to join him outside Cuomo's office at 633 Third Ave., near 41st Street for the "Stand up and be Heard Let the People Vote" rally.

"We have initiated a campaign requesting a referendum so that the 20 million citizens of New York State can vote on and decide whether or not they want same-sex marriage in New York or not," Diaz said in a statement on his website.

Roya Millard, a wedding officiant who is among those who showed up to marry people on Sunday, said it saddened her to see religion used to conceal hate speech.

"As a Christian, it saddens me to see people who are so full of God and so empty of love," Millard said.