Mariano Rajoy, the president of Spain's Partido Popular, has softened his stand against gay marriage.

In a November interview with daily El Pais, Rajoy, who is vying to become the nation's next prime minister in a contest to be held in early 2012, said he believes the nation's 5-year-old gay marriage law is unconstitutional. His conservative party has filed a constitutional challenge to the law.

“I will listen very carefully to the arguments of the Constitutional Court and the people, but I do not like the homosexual marriage act, and I do not think it is constitutional,” he said. “My disagreement is about the use of the word marriage.”

Rajoy wouldn't commit to keeping the law even if the court upheld its constitutionality.

In a new televised interview released Monday, the conservative leader backed off a bit, saying he would consider the public's reaction to the ruling before deciding on the issue.

“I'll await the resolution of the Constitutional Court and then listen to the people,” he said.

Rajoy's earlier comments put gay rights activists on alert.

Tony Poveda, president of Spain's largest gay rights advocate, the Federacion Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales (FELGTB), called Rajoy's words “outrageous.”

“His words are a clear example of the power in Spain of the Catholic Church, Opus Dei, and PP's homophobia. Homophobia disguised as liberal conservatism,” he said.