Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican presidential aspirant whose 2012 campaign was sunk partly because of verbal slips, has compared homosexuality to alcoholism, coming under fire again for an argument he has made previously.
Perry, in an appearance in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club of California, was 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 CBS. "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. In his 2008 book On My Honour Perry made a similar comparison.
"From a scientific standpoint it's not a very apt analogy. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder, alcoholism is a mental disorder," said Jack Drescher, distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College.
Perry, who is seen as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, was forced to exit the 2012 Republican race after several gaffes including when he lost his train of thought during a debate and could not recall which government departments he wanted to abolish.
The American Psychological Association has dismissed the idea that sexual orientation is a mental disorder and has said mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.
Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights group, said, "Rick Perry has demonstrated once and again that he is anti-science and anti-love."
Perry is a defender of a Texas constitutional amendment that bars same-sex marriage. He has said states should be allowed to set their own policies on whether to allow gay marriage.
The Texas Republican Party in the past week adopted a policy at its convention that endorses "reparative therapy" for gays who seek to change sexual orientation through counseling.