Rick Santorum's push to win social conservatives in Iowa has been labeled “desperate” by gay rights activists in the state.

Santorum, considered the Republican field's most socially conservative presidential candidate, outlined 16 policy initiatives he would back if elected president during the debut of his “Faith, Family and Freedom Tour,” including undoing the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the recently ended law that for 18 years banned gay and bisexual troops from serving openly, and instructing the Department of Justice to defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that bars federal agencies and the military from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

“You cannot have limited government if you have broken families because someone has to pick up the pieces, and the ones who pick up the pieces are the taxpayers,” he told an audience of about 50 people, the Des Moines Register reported.

He also repeated his call to Congress to abolish the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, considered by conservatives to be an “activist court” which regularly decides in favor of gay rights.

Troy Price, executive director of gay rights group One Iowa, called Santorum's focus on social issues an unfortunate attack on gay Americans. The speech is a sign of a “very desperate campaign,” he said.