Steve King Iowa US Rep
Iowa Rep Steve King has said homosexuality is a characteristic that can be "wilfully changed"Wikimedia Commons

Iowa Rep. Steve King has spoken out against Arizona's decision to veto the state's religious freedom bill, arguing that homosexuality is a "self-professed behaviour" that can be willfully changed.

Appearing on Iowa's WHO-TV, he said he regretted governor Jan Brewer's decision to throw out the SB 1062 bill on the grounds that it could have "unintended and negative consequences".

The bill, if approved, would have allowed businesses run by staff with religious beliefs to deny service to gay and lesbian customers in the state.

When asked if being gay was a choice, King said: "I think it exists across the continuum in some type of a curve, and I don't know what that curve actually looks like. I think some's nature and some's nurture. Some might be purely each. But I think a lot of it is a combination of nature and nurture."

Speaking about civil rights protection, he continued: "If it's not specifically protected in the Constitution, then it's got to be an immutable characteristic, that being a characteristic that can be independently verified and cannot be wilfully changed."

On the issue of SB 1062, he argued the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes no mention of sexual orientation.

King said: "Although we have—it's clear that in the civil rights part of the code that you can't discriminate against anybody based upon—not sure I've got the list right, but—race, creed, religion, color of skin, those kind of things.

"And there's nothing mentioned in [civil rights laws] about self-professed behaviour, and that's what they're trying to protect is special rights for self-professed behaviour and I think it's difficult for us to define a law that would protect behaviour."

According to King, those within the private sector who are an "individual entrepreneur" are entitled to make their own decisions on whether or not to offer service to homosexual customers.

He added: "When you're in the private sector and you're an individual entrepreneur with God-given rights that our founding fathers defined in the Declaration, you should be able to make your own decisions on what you do in that private business."

"And I'm always uneasy about the idea of the philosophy that you're a private-slash-public business, because you have a door that's open that anybody can walk in. That doesn't mean that you have to perform any kind of service that they demand."

The US Representative for Iowa's 4th congressional district, who has served in Congress since 2003, also argued that hate-crime legislation is a grey area of the law. As reported in the Washington Times, he stated people were punished "for what you think went on in their head at the time they perpetuated a crime".

He added: "We've not gone that way until the modern era, and I think it gets very messy."

In the 2009 passage of the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act, in which the victim's sexual orientation, gender identity or disability were added to the 1969 legislation, King stated sexual orientation would help protect paedophiles.

Speaking to Fox News, he said: "The definition for sexual orientation was defined by one of the principal authors, [former Rep] Tammy Baldwin of Madison, Wisconsin, as being either heterosexual or homosexual.

"Well, so, within that definition, though, of sexual orientation by the American Psychological Association, you've got a whole list of proclivities - they call them paraphilias - and in that list, among them, are paedophiles."