Appearing Monday at a book signing in San Diego, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney steered clear of a small but vocal pro-gay marriage demonstration led by Californians Against Hate.

Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger said he organized the demonstration to send Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), a message.

“We are appealing to Mitt Romney, through online ads and Monday's demonstration, to use his vast influence with the Mormon leadership to ask his church to take a vow of political neutrality,” Karger said. “According to the official Mormon Church website, 'The Church's mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not elect politicians.' Let them practice what hey preach on ballot initiatives, too!”

Gay rights activists in California point out that members of the Mormon church – at the behest of its leaders – donated more than $30 million and thousands of volunteer hours to the campaign to approve Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative narrowly approved by voters that defined marriage as a heterosexual union in the California Constitution and trumped a state Supreme Court ruling that briefly legalized the institution.

Karger also says the church has been heavily involved in outlawing gay marriage in 30 other states over the past 15 years.

“Our mission is to get the Mormon Church out of the gay marriage business, and back to helping earthquake victims,” Karger added.

Early talk about Romney as a 2012 Republican presidential candidate is being flamed by his increasing media profile.

“Mitt Romney running for president is a pretty scary concept because he's very beholden to the Mormon Church,” Karger told Fox 5 New's Jennifer Musa. “There's something called obedience, which is a little different than any other religion. And the fact that his church is so dead set against, you know, marriage equality for us that it scares me if he's going to be in the White House.”

Romney was welcomed in San Diego by a large crowd looking to have their copy of No Apology: The Case for American Greatness signed by its author at the Mormon Church-owned Deseret Bookstore.