Texas Governor Rick Perry, seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 election, compared homosexuality to alcoholism in remarks in San Francisco.
Perry made the comparison on Wednesday night during an appearance before the Commonwealth Club of California after being asked whether he believes homosexuality was a disorder, according to local media reports.
"I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that," Perry said in remarks broadcast on the local CBS affiliate. "And I look at the homosexual issue in the same way."
A few people in the audience gasped in response, according to the CBS report.
A representative for Perry was not immediately available for comment. Perry has been a staunch defender of a Texas constitutional amendment that bars same-sex marriage, saying states should be allowed to set their own policies for who can get married.
The already conservative Texas Republican Party in the past week adopted a hardline position on gay rights, adopting a policy at its convention that endorses "reparative therapy" for gays who seek to change sexual orientation through counseling.
The American Psychological Association has dismissed the idea that sexual orientation is a mental disorder and said mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Eric Beech)