Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Friday insisted gay people must respect his opinion.

The former Pennsylvania senator, who surprised last week with a fourth place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll, talked about how he feels about gay people in a Fox News segment with Megan Kelly.

During the segment, Kelly called Santorum an “incredibly nice guy” who is “very caring” and “looks out for other people,” then added: “When I talk to some of my friends who are gay and lesbian, they don't understand that characterization of you, because they think you have it in for gays and lesbians. Because you're anti-gay marriage and you've called it wrong and you called it destructive of the family.”

Santorum denied he harbors any ill will toward gay people, and then insisted they should respect his opinion.

“We can have a public policy difference about what the proper marriage laws should be in this country and what's in the best interest of society and not hate somebody or feel ill will toward anybody.”

“As I've said many times, I have friends who are gay, you know, I accept them as they are, but I disagree with them vehemently about what is in the best interest of society with respect to our marriage laws and what we are going to teach our children in schools; what the impact of those marriage laws will be on our faith communities and their ability to able to proclaim the truth as God has laid it out in the Bible.”

Santorum suggested being gay is a choice when he said “I respect that decision.”

“But also you have to respect me for feeling very differently about trying to take that [sexual] orientation and then to try to project an agenda on to the American public that is consistent with that.”

“But it's not personal, it's about policy,” he added. (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

(Related: Rick Santorum says 'pursuit of happiness' doesn't apply to gay folks; blames the economic downtown on gay marriage.)