During a debate Tuesday at George Washington University, former House Speaker and presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich argued he doesn't support gay marriage because he believes in tradition.

The debate, sponsored by the school's Democrats and Republicans, also featured former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.

One student broached the subject of gay marriage.

“The Republican Party has long stood in opposition to gay rights, specifically gay marriage,” the female student said. “You were speaker of the House when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed. And if you truly believe that LGBT individuals here at GW should not have the right to marry who they love, I ask that you tell all of us – all of my friends who happen to be gay – why you believe that right now.”

“Look, I'm quite happy to say I come out of a tradition, which is several thousand years old, that says marriage is between a man and a woman,” Gingrich answered wryly. “And I'm prepared to defend that tradition. And I happen to believe it. And I think I have as much right to my belief as you have to yours.”

Last year, Gingrich renewed a call for placing a gay marriage ban in the U.S. Constitution after a federal judge ruled Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban, to be unconstitutional.