Perry was speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California Wednesday night when he was asked by moderator and host Greg Dalton if he believed homosexuality is a disorder.
"Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that," Perry said. "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 response prompted murmurs and at least a few gasps from the crowd gathered at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins, a famed San Francisco hotel located at the crest of the city’s Nob Hill.
California Lt. Gov.Gavin Newsom on Thursday was quick to issue a sharp rebuke to Perry’s comments.
“Governor Perry must apologize for ignorant and hateful remarks comparing homosexuality to a destructive addiction like alcoholism,” Newsom said in a Tweet.
Newsom was mayor of San Francisco in 2004 when he ordered the County/City clerk of San Francisco to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in violation of what was then state law forbidding marriages between gay and lesbian couples.
“Much progress has been made on #lgbtrights but ignorant offensive remarks from @GovernorPerry show how much more work needs to be done,” Newsom said in a subsequent Tweet.
But others had even harsher words for Perry about his comments.
“Perhaps Rick Perry was drunk when he said it,” said (Charles) Karel Bouley, a talk show host on San Francisco’s KGO radio, as well as a columnist for the Huffington Post and syndicated host on the Genesis Communications Network.
"Why the nation's media isn't focusing on Perry and the entire idea of the Texas Republicans embracing a barbaric notion like 'reparative therapy,' Jeremy Holden, Senior Research Fellow at MediaMatters for America told me in my June 12th Karel Cast. And I couldn't agree more. What's happening in Texas is as bad as Uganda, it's dangerous, it's wrong, and it could cause Texan children to die. Yes, die. GLBT youth suicides still rank highest, and it's this kind of ridiculous rhetoric that does it”.
Bouley’s comments about the so-called “reparative therapy” was a reference to the Texas Republican Party moving last week to adopt as part of its party platform the therapy, which is a counseling “treatment” that seeks to change a gay person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual.
Perry's office did not immediately return a request for comment about his appearance at The Commonwealth Club, or about the criticism of his comments.
The Republican governor was in California this week as part of a trip to try to convince businesses to leave California and move to Texas. Those efforts included a pitch to to get electric car-maker Tesla to build a planned battery factory in Texas.
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