GOP 2016 hopefuls emphasize staunch opposition to same-sex marriage in Iowa stump

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas Nati Harnik, AP

Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom 15th Annual Spring Kick Off, in Waukee, Iowa, Saturday, April 25, 2015. Nati Harnik, AP

Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom 15th Annual Spring Kick Off, in Waukee, Iowa, Saturday, April 25, 2015.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican presidential hopefuls emphasized their staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights Saturday before a crowd of social conservatives who hold significant sway in the state’s leadoff presidential caucuses.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Nine declared and prospective 2016 candidates appeared in a church in Waukee for a forum sponsored by the conservative Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition and attended by more than 1,000 people.

The forum gave candidates an opportunity to show off their conservative bona fides, with speeches on religious freedom and social issues that repeatedly brought the crowd to its feet.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz noted that the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in four states’ same-sex marriage cases on Tuesday and said that between now and then, conservatives must “fall to our knees and pray.”

“We need leaders who will stand unapologetically in defense of marriage and life,” Cruz said in remarks that drew huge applause.

On abortion, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul encouraged conservatives to be more aggressive in their opposition, saying: “I’m tired of us retreating on this issue and I’m going to push back.” He also argued that most Americans were uncomfortable with late-term procedures.

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Abortion has been a tricky issue for the senator. He has supported restrictions on the procedure in legislation yet said the issue is too divisive to expect changes in federal abortion law, a stance that raised earlier concerns among some religious conservatives about his commitment to their cause.

The gathering offered a platform for Republican contenders to cater to social conservatives with a message that did not always address the full range of their views on social issues.

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