Governor Mitt Romney is facing criticism after calling upon evangelicals to condemn gay marriage and to fight what they see as a threat to Christian values in a nationwide broadcast last weekend.

In a cavernous, gilded room festooned with American flags, Romney and a slew of leading conservative speakers described how a “homosexual agenda” was interfering with the constitutional rights of same-sex marriage opponents to express their dissent and religious freedom.

According to the Boston Globe, Romney, a Republican who may run for president in 2008, told several hundred people at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, “Every child deserves a mother and a father.”

“Today, there are some people who would like to establish a single religion, the religion of secularism,” he said to thunderous applause at the event, dubbed “Liberty Sunday,” and which organisers said might have reached close to 80 million people.

The Washington-based Family Research Council chose Boston for the site of its annual Liberty Sunday because Massachusetts is the only state that has legalised same-sex marriage.

“When we look at what has happened with same-sex marriage, as it began in this state and threatens to spread across the country, we’ve seen in its wake the loss of religious freedoms and the ability to speak out based upon one’s moral convictions,” said Tony Perkins, the organisation’s president, to the Associated Press.

Eight states will vote in November on amendments banning same-sex marriage, following 20 states that previously approved bans.

Prompted by a ruling from its highest court, Massachusetts legalised same-sex marriage in 2004. Massachusetts lawmakers are expected to consider a proposed constitutional same-sex marriage ban on Nov 9 2006.

The event, broadcast to churches nationally, is part of a larger effort to energise conservative voters before the November 7 congressional election, reports the AP.

Critics called Romney’s attack on Massachusetts for legalising gay marriage an insult.

“Once again he chooses to demonise loving couples and families in Massachusetts as part of his heartless crusade for the presidential nomination,” said Marc Solomon, campaign director from MassEquality, to the Boston Herald.

“Everyone but Romney has moved on and we just wish he’d finally bite the bullet, move out and drop this pretend game of governing.”

One protester said Romney was disingenuous when he ran for office, and now is only focused on his next post. “He’s cowtowing to the far right,” said Margaret Williams, 47, who married her girlfriend under the state’s gay marriage law.

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