CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, February 13, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – As parishioners gathered for Sunday Mass, a radical group of homosexual activists protested outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral, calling Francis Cardinal George the city’s “arch-bigot” for defending marriage.

Carrying placards and spouting slogans on the sidewalk as worshipers entered the sanctuary, members of the Gay Liberation Network instructed Catholics to “give up hate for Lent.”

David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute told LifeSiteNews.com the Gay Liberation Network is “a tiny group of radical activists who are trying to intimidate and name-call religious leaders like Cardinal George to try to coerce them into silence for standing up for God’s institution of marriage.”

The protests have been an annual event since at least 2005, he said. Last year, the group swarmed the cathedral as police did nothing. In 2005, the Gay Liberation Network protested Chicago’s famous Moody Church because its pastor, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, had written a book called The Truth about Same Sex Marriage. GLN called the 100-year-old institution, founded by famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody, “a house of hate.” Marchers then protested outside Cardinal George’s residence.

The war of words has heated up and tensions have mounted as the group has steadily increased its criticism of the Catholic Church. In late December Cardinal George told reporters, “You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.” Cardinal George promptly apologized to the protesters for his remarks. GLN co-founder Andy Thayer did not accept, calling the cardinal’s remorse “totally inadequate.”

A series of political battles around the country have brought the protests to a fever pitch. “We’ve seen how homosexual special rights – whether they be marriage, civil unions, hate crimes laws, or non-discrimination laws – are coming into conflict with religious freedom, religious liberty,” Smith told LifeSiteNews. “Unfortunately, it looks like religious liberty is losing a lot of these battles.”

Pro-family activists see the GLN’s use of ad hominem attacks as an admission of weakness. “They do not have a reasonable, intelligent defense about why they’re seeking to redefine an age-old institution,” Smith said. “If ‘love’ is the only basis by which we’re going to recognize marriage, then we need to open it up to a whole lot more than just two people or two people of the same sex.”

“I think it’s highly ironic that the purveyors of tolerance and love and acceptance are the first to call names…and fail to recognize the deeply held religious beliefs of the faiths, in Chicagoland or throughout the state,” he added.

Fr. Tom Loya of the Illinois-based Tabor Life Institute, which is dedicated to Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” told LifeSiteNews.com the catcalls should not discourage pro-family activists. “They’re going to do that anyway, and it just exposes how their position is based on illusion and anger.”

Such attacks undermine the same-sex marriage advocates’ arguments, he said. “Shouldn’t they practice that same sensitivity and not label someone else?”

Fr. Loya, who is a Byzantine Catholic priest and the host of the nationally syndicated “Light of the East” radio program, told LifeSiteNews that defending marriage should be a primary concern for traditional Christians. “There are three ‘sacraments’ of initiation into the culture of death: contraception, abortion, and same-sex attraction. What these three things have in common is that they are non-life-giving,” he said. “Our civilization today has made the first two the law of the land.”

Defend Marriage Illinois is attempting to collect 500,000 signatures to put the definition of marriage before voters in the Land of Lincoln. They have until April 23 to submit their petitions.

Fr. Tom Loya said far from bigotry, opponents of same-sex marriage are motivated by “compassion. I cannot stress that word enough.”

“To do anything that affirms anyone in an illusion is not compassionate. It’s actually self-serving under the guise of compassion,” he said. “We don’t want to go through the real effort of suffering with them to bring them to the truth, help them know that no whatever your condition in life, however ordered or disordered aspects of your life are, those who are truly compassionate are willing to walk with that person” and help him or her “negotiate through this struggle.”

“To help a person really understand whats going on inside them…takes real compassion,” Fr. Loya told LifeSiteNews. “That is proof of the fact that we and we alone truly love these people, are truly compassionate.”