WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ben Carson says homosexuality is a choice because many people "go into prison straight -- and when they come out, they're gay."
The neurosurgeon and potential Republican candidate for president in 2016 made the comment in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo that aired Wednesday on "New Day."
Asked whether being gay is a choice, Carson responded: "Absolutely."
"Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight -- and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question," Carson said.
That argument, Carson said, "thwarts" the notion that homosexuality isn't a choice.
Carson also said he believes the issue of allowing or restricting same-sex marriage should be decided on the state level, rather than by federal courts -- even as the Supreme Court prepares to take up a case this spring that could legalize gay marriage nationwide.
He said it's possible to grant the legal rights that accompany marriage to same-sex couples -- or to any two people at all -- without applying the word "marriage" to their relationships.
"Why do gay people want to get married? Why do they say they want to get married? Because they want to have various rights -- property rights, visitation rights," he said. "Why can't any two human beings, I don't care what their sexual orientation is, why can't they have the legal right to do those things? That does not require changing the definition of marriage."
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