Catholic Church officials are mounting a full-court press to convince lawmakers in Albany to vote against same-sex marriage legislation, which stands a vote or two from becoming law in New York State.
Dennis Poust, communications director for the New York State Catholic Conference, says it has a network of more than 60,000 people across the state emailing and making thousands of phone calls to senators' offices.
"We're trying to convince them, this is not right for the state," he said.
Republicans hold a 32-30 advantage over Democrats in the state Senate. But two GOP lawmakers have promised to vote in favor of the legislation. And with one Democrat joining the GOP block, there are now 31 total yes votes, making the count even.
New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan on Wednesday equated the actions of lawmakers to restrictive Communist regimes.
"Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America - not in China or North Korea," he wrote on his blog. "In those countries, government presumes daily to 'redefine' rights, relationships, values, and natural law."
Brooklyn Diocese' Monsignor Kieran Harrington says every diocese is now aggressively getting the word out to Catholics across New York, which make up 38 percent of the state population, to encourage parishioners to contact senators.
“Every diocese is speaking out to congregations to realize how significant this is,” he said.
Harrington also accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo and liberal lawmakers of misrepresenting not only the issue, but also those who would oppose it.
"They're trying to say people of faith are bigots, and we think that's offensive," he said. "If they are convinced we were bigots they wouldn't be giving a religious exemption. How can they be proposing an exemption for bigotry?...They can't have it both ways."
Cuomo has an advocate in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is lobbying the state Senate to pass the "Marriage Equality Legislation."
Bloomberg issued a press release Thursday, saying that this move is one of a long line of laws that were hard fought and eventually won -- like the abolition of slavery, Catholics being allowed to hold office, and women being given the right to vote.
"One by one, over many long years, the legal prohibitions to freedom and equality were overcome--- some on the battlefield, some at the State House, and some in the courthouse," Bloomberg said.
But Harrington calls the framing of same sex marriage as a civil rights issue "odious."
"People of color were subjected to unimaginable discrimination....So many people had human rights denied," he said.
The Catholic Church does not see same-sex marriage as a basic human right. Other orthodox faiths are joining Catholics in opposing the bill.
Rev. Jason McGuire, head of New York for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents evangelicals, has logged several late night hours in Albany monitoring the senators' discussions and debates. He has also been on what he's calling, "The May Day for Marriage Tour," traveling the state in a 32-foot RV speaking out against the marriage bill.
McGuire claims the legislation has a "fake religious liberty exemption," saying that New York already has thousands and thousands of civil rights laws targeting discrimination that will be used against churches and individuals who fail to perform or support same-sex marriage. McGuire claims the law would then "deny us our right to participate fully in our society and be faithful to our religious beliefs."
The Jewish Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America has also been lobbying lawmakers for months. This week it sent a letter to each one saying, "At the most basic level, our opposition to same-sex marriage is an expression of our religious tradition, as it is, no doubt, for millions of New Yorkers of all faiths."