The new head of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, has spoken out on gay issues.

In an interview with GQ magazine, when asked if he had a problem with gay priests who are celibate, he said that being gay is in people’s natures, adding “I can’t deny you your nature”.

However, he admitted being against marriage for same-sex couples but denied his view was homophobic.

He said: “I have been supportive of a lot of my friends who are gay in some of the core things that they believe are important to them. You know, the ability to be able to share in the information of your partner, to have the ability to manage their affairs and to help them through that as others – you know, as family members or others – would be able to do. I just draw the line at the gay marriage.

“And that’s not anti-gay, no. Heck no! It’s just that, you know, from my faith tradition and upbringing, I believe that marriage – that institution, the sanctity of it – is reserved for a man and a woman. That’s just my view.

“And I’m not gonna jump up and down and beat people upside the head about it, and tell gays that they’re wrong for wanting to aspire to that, and all of that craziness. That’s why I believe that the states should have an opportunity to address that issue.”

Mr Steele was rebuked by other members of the Republican Party for the views he expressed on abortion in the interview.

When asked if women have the right to choose whether to have an abortion, he said: “Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice. Absolutely.”