Texas Gov. Rick Perry caused some Commonwealth Club of California members to feel unsettled after he compared homosexuality to alcoholism during a discussion with them in San Francisco on Wednesday night.
Perry was asked his opinion on the Texas Republican party's support of conversion therapy, and also whether he thought homosexuality was a disorder.
Gov. Perry answered that he is not sure if conversion therapy—a controversial series of treatments designed to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals—is effective, and that homosexuality is a choice.
"Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that," Perry told interviewer Greg Dalton.
"I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way."
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that some in the audience began to "murmur in disbelief" after the statement.
California and San Francisco have been centers for LGBT advocacy for decades, and California was the first state to legally recognize same-sex couples by expanding domestic partnership rights in 1999. California also has laws banning conversion therapy, and allowing transgender children to use whichever restroom they choose. After a series of legal challenges, same-sex marriage was allowed in the state in June 2013.
Texas' voter-approved ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional in both February and April 2014. The state has appealed the decisions. In a statement released after the February ruling, Gov. Perry said that he will continue to fight for the Texas law defining marriage in biblical terms.
"Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens," he said.