updated 5/1/2004 5:35:58 PM ET 2004-05-01T21:35:58

Thousands of people protested gay marriage at a rally Saturday, but they faced hundreds of chanting, shouting counter-protesters in the city’s baseball stadium Saturday.

The “Mayday for Marriage” worship service and rally drew between 20,000 and 25,000 people from conservative Christian churches supporting traditional marriage, officials said. The protesters arrived by busloads at Safeco Field.

“This is a place where we’re taking a stand,” James Dobson, founder of the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, told the crowd. “If this happens, the culture war is over and everything associated with it is lost.”

The rally was slated as a worship service including music and a choir.

“We believe marriage was designed for a man and a woman,” said Bill Hanford, 46, of Redmond. “We think the biblical concept of marriage is important and people should take a stand on that side of the argument as well as the one that’s in the media right now.”

About 1,500 gay-rights protesters waved signs and chanted, “Bigots go home!” and tried to shout down the anti-gay marriage protesters. Arrivals had to walk between the counter-protesters to enter the stadium.

Jeffrey Steinberg, 52, carried a sign that said, “Religious bigots love lies, not God! Bear your false witness elsewhere.”

“Unfortunately religion has often been a tool for hatred,” he said.

Organizers spent $120,000 to rent the stadium, said the Rev. Joseph Fuiten, pastor of Cedar Park Assembly of God church in Bothell.

The Seattle Mariners, who operate the ballpark, and Safeco Insurance, whose name is on it, received phone calls from people criticizing the use of the stadium for the anti-gay marriage rally, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.

Some threatened to cancel insurance policies while others said they would give up their Mariners tickets, the newspaper said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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