Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), says neither he nor his group sanctions the criminalization of gay sex.

Perkins went on MSNBC's Hardball on Monday to defend his group against claims by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calling the FRC a hate group.

The SPLC recently added the FRC, a group that opposes gay rights, to the same list of hate groups as the Ku Klux Klan, the Nation of Islam and the Aryan Nations. Also added were the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, and the Christian conservative group American Family Association (AFA), which claims that “homosexuals controlled the Nazi Party and helped orchestrate the Holocaust.”

In adding the FRC to its list of hate groups the SPLC noted that the group's senior researcher, Peter Sprigg, told Hardball host Chris Matthews in February that “gay behavior” should be criminalized.

Perkins dismissed the claim, arguing that Sprigg was merely making the point “that in 2003 we were opposed to the overturning of the sodomy laws in the Lawrence vs. Texas case.” The Supreme Court overturned state sodomy laws in Lawrence vs. Texas.

“We have not been, we are not, and we are not going to be working to re-criminalize homosexual behavior. That's not the issue today,” Perkins said. “What's at issue here is an attempt to take our public policies and enshrine homosexual behavior as some protected class, redefining marriage – and of course voters in 31 states have rejected that idea – that's what we're working on. We have never put forth a policy that would re-criminalize homosexual behavior.”

Matthews then asked the SPLC's Mark Potok if Perkins' assertion was sufficient to have the group removed from its list.

“No, I think it's ridiculous,” he replied. “And I say that for this reason. Peter Sprigg went on your air just as I am doing as a representative of his organization. The Family Research Council made no sound about this, there was nothing remotely approaching a repudiation or even a clarifying statement about the statements that were made.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)