A group of Chicago ministers are holding a press conference today to claim that civil rights leader Martin Luther King would not have supported gay rights.

The Illinois Family Institute, which has a reputation for homophobia, said in a press release that Dr King’s legacy had been “misrepresented” and “hijacked”.

The group attacked politicians who have “exploited” his analogies by comparing same sex marriage to interracial marriage.

Laurie Higgins, of the Illinois Family Institute, said: “For years, homosexual activists and their allies have manufactured and exploited an absurd and offensive analogy between homosexuality and race in order to advance their moral and political agenda.

“Homosexualists use the heroic battle to end racial discrimination as a Trojan Horse to eradicate moral judgments about homosexual conduct.

“All civilized persons – particularly African-Americans – should be outraged. Regarding this analogy, homosexualists have no ethical commitments to either logic or evidence, and they have no regard for the black family in America that already experiences tremendous struggles.”

Last year, the Illinois Family Institute was named as one of 18 “hate groups” which “demonise” gay people and propagate “known falsehoods”.

The list was compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In 2004, Dr King’s late widow, Coretta Scott King, said gay marriage was a civil rights issue and that gay couples needed legal protection.

“Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union,” she said.

“A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”

She also told black church leaders unwilling to support gay rights: “Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.”