Des Moines, Iowa -- The GOP presidential candidates who attended a rally against same-sex marriage joined an anti-gay right-wing feeding frenzy leading up to the Iowa caucuses Feb. 12, the Human Rights Campaign charged.
The rally, organized by several national religious political organizations, featured a political operative who was paid by the Christian Coalition to whip up fear of same-sex marriage all over the United States, HRC said.
"In the Republican presidential political caucus, they need an enemy. At the moment, we seem to be it," said David M. Smith, communications director for HRC, the largest national lesbian and gay political group.
Smith spoke at a news conference Saturday outside the First Federated Church in Des Moines. He was joined by Bill Crews, the openly gay mayor of Melbourne, Iowa.
HRC also helped to organize an Iowans Against Bigotry candlelight vigil attended by 250 people in front of the church.
Inside, GOP presidential candidates Pat Buchanan, Phil Gramm and Alan Keyes addressed the anti-marriage rally.
The other GOP presidential hopefuls who signed onto their reactionary "Marriage Protection Resolution" included Lamar Alexander, Bob Dornan and Steve Forbes.
The GOP front-runner, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, sent a letter to the anti-gay rally organizers, endorsing their resolution but telling them it did not go far enough.
"I fully support the position taken in the resolution -- that the state should not legalize same-sex marriages 'but should continue to reserve the special sanction of civil marriage for one man and one woman as husband and wife,'" Dole wrote on Feb. 8.
HRC labeled Dole's action as stooping to join a conservative right-wing feeding frenzy that characterized the final days leading up to the Iowa caucuses.
"This rally was the most insidious political attack on the lives of gay men and lesbians in the history of presidential politics," Smith said. "We are seeing here in Iowa a repeat of the viciousness of the 1992 Republican Convention. Each GOP candidate who attended this rally exploited prejudice against gay and lesbian Americans."
Jay Sekulow, lead attorney for the Christian Coalition's legal arm, the American Center for Law and Justice, was a featured speaker at the rally. Sekulow bragged that his group is spearheading a drive to put anti-gay marriage bills in all 50 state legislatures. The organizers of Saturday's anti-marriage rally also showed their latest hate video targeting gay and lesbian Americans.
"These candidates are using hate as a political tool to bludgeon one another, bashing America's gay community in the process, and alienating the moderate mainstream of this country," Smith said.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.