Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum continues to deny he's anti-gay.

In an interview with CNN anchor Don Lemon, the former Pennsylvania senator who once likened gay unions to “man on dog” insisted that his opposition to gay marriage is a matter of public policy, adding that opponents should be able to debate the issue without being called bigots.

“I have a difference of agreement on a public policy issue, that doesn't mean I hate anybody,” Santorum told Lemon. “I'm called by my faith to love everybody. I do. I mean I pray for people whether they're for me or against me because that's what I'm suppose to do.”

“Just because I disagree with what a legal definition of what marriage is, doesn't mean I dislike anybody or hate anybody or am spiteful of anybody. It's because that's what I think is best for society. And we should be able to disagree without calling people bigots.”

When Lemon asked if Santorum has any gay friends, Santorum answered that he does and that he loves them.

“In fact, I was with a gay friend just two days ago. So, yeah, I do. And they respect that I have differences of opinion on that. I talk about these things in front of them and we have conversations about it. They differ from me, but they know that I love them because they're my friends. … And we have respectful differences.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

Santorum endorsed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage last week.