New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday said that if one of his four children came out gay, he would hug them and tell them they could not marry.

Christie, a Republican, made his remarks during the second and final televised gubernatorial debate against his Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono.

Christie, who last year vetoed a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry and is defending the state's ban in court, reiterated his belief that the issue of whether to legalize gay nuptials should be decided “by the people, by referendum,” not politicians or judges.

Buono, whose youngest daughter, Tessa Bitterman, is gay, said that marriage equality is a “human rights issue.”

Noting Buono's gay daughter, Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University, which hosted the debate, asked: “I want to ask you if Andrew or Sarah or Patrick or Bridget came to you and said, 'Daddy, I'm gay. And I want to marry the love of my life,' what would you say to them?”

“If my children came to me and said that they were gay, I would grab them and hug them and tell them I love them,” Christie answered. “But what I would also tell them is, that dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. And that's my position. And my children understand that there are going to be differences of opinion in our house and in houses all across this state and across this country.”