Newt Gingrich on Thursday denied that gay rights are civil rights, noting that a gay person could choose to be celibate.

Gingrich made his remarks in the wake of signing on to the National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) anti-gay marriage 5-point pledge.

When the Des Moines Register's editorial board asked Gingrich to talk about the subject of gay rights as civil rights, Gingrich suggested sexual orientation was a choice.

“I think there is an enormous difference between an inescapable fact of race. And you have to decide whether or not you're in fact going to tolerate discrimination based on race,” Gingrich said.

“And I think that it is frankly offensive to have this whole effort to draw the contrast and to say, 'If you feel strongly about marriage being between a man and a woman, geez is that parallel to being a racist.' The answer is no.”

Which later lead into the question, “Do you believe that people choose to be gay?”

“I believe it's a combination of genetics and environment,” Gingrich said. “I think both are involved. I think people have many ranges of choices. Part of the question is, do you want a society which has a bias in one direction or another?

“I think people have a significant range of choice within a genetic pattern. I don't believe in genetic determinism and I don't think there is any great evidence of genetic determinism. There are propensities. Are you more likely to do this or more likely to do that? But that doesn't mean it's definitional.”

“So a person can then choose to be straight?”

“Look, people choose to be celibate. People choose many things in life. You know, there is a bias in favor of non-celibacy. It's part of how the species recreates. And yet there is a substantial amount of people who choose celibacy as a religious vocation or for other reasons,” he added. (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)