The US Secretary of State has urged “respect” and “sensitivity” in the debate over gay marriage.

Condoleeza Rice’s statement comes after the US Senate rejected a proposal to ban gay marriage in the constitution last week.

She told The News Record, “This is an issue that can be debated and can be discussed in our country with respect for every human being.

“When we get into difficult debates about social policy, we get into difficult debates that touch people’s lives,” adding, “the only thing that I ask is that Americans do it with a kind of sensitivity that real individuals and real human beings are involved here.”

But she refused to be drawn on her personal opinion of the issue, “This is not my area of expertise or, frankly, my area of concentration at this point.”