SALT LAKE CITY - A gay rights organization is calling on Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to apologize for suggesting homosexuality is a choice and for calling decisions by other state leaders to not defend same-sex marriage bans the "next step to anarchy."
John Netto, head of the Utah Pride Center's board, said the governor's comments during his monthly televised news conference Thursday were hurtful.
"To suggest that allowing gay marriage is the foundation of anarchy, to us, is hate speech," Netto told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We think he is uneducated ... on current scientific positions in regard to human sexuality."
Herbert's office didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Herbert said Thursday that he remains committed to defending Utah's same-sex marriage ban, which was struck down by a federal judge in December. The ruling led more than 1,000 same-sex couples to marry in the state before the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency stay pending an appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
The Republican governor said he's dismayed by the suggestion that Utah should drop its defense of the 2004 voter-approved ban because public opinion and social mores are shifting.
He said seeing Oregon and Pennsylvania leaders this week decide not to appeal rulings from federal judges striking down bans there does nothing to change his thinking.
"For elected officials, governors or attorney generals, to pick and choose what laws (they) will enforce I think is a tragedy, and is the next step to anarchy," Herbert said. "We have an obligation as a state to defend those laws."
Oregon and Pennsylvania became the 18th and 19th states to allow gay marriage.
The governor also commented on his views on homosexuality, after being asked if he thinks approving gay marriage is analogous to the legalization of interracial marriage 47 years ago.
"What you choose to do with your sexual orientation is different in my mind than what you're born with as far as your race," Herbert said.
He added later: "What your attraction may be is something else, but how you act upon those impulses is a choice."
Netto said the governor's comments show a lack of understanding about how Utah's laws affect same-sex couples and their families.
"We are quite confident that the 18 or 19 states that have legal marriage are not in a state of anarchy, and there has been no damage down to heterosexual marriage," he told The Tribune. "We absolutely think he should apologize, and we think he should reach out and we think he should get some education."