A biblical scholar in Taiwan has responded to the idea that someone can be born gay by comparing it to the condition of someone “born with a cleft lip,” insisting that neither can be considered “natural.”

The Liberty Times reports Immanuel Chih-Ming Ke, an Associate Professor at Taiwan’s Providence University, recently attended a public service broadcaster PTS to debate same-sex marriage alongside various advocates.

Mr Ke was asked towards the end of the broadcast whether he thought being gay was “unnatural.”

“Of course,” he said. “A person can be born with a cleft lip, or just one hand, but you cannot say he is natural just because he was born like this.”

The scholar’s remarks instantly sparked controversy online on Providence University’s LGBT society page, with one student writing: “I was born with a cleft lip. I am not unnatural.”

Society members have since called on their vice-chancellor to address the damage Mr Ke’s comments have caused, with a petition which reached over 2,500 signatures within a day.

National Taiwan University student Bell I Ching said on Friday the remarks were “really very inappropriate.”

She added: “Human rights mean we should not discriminate against people born with a cleft lip, or with missing legs. We want him to rethink his words.”

Thousands marched in a pride rally in October, holding rainbow flags, colourful placards and balloons, in support of a bill reviewing Taiwan’s stance on same-sex marriages.

Support for equal marriage has steadily risen after in August, Taiwan authorities agreed not to revoke the marriage status of a local transgender couple, in a move activists called a “benchmark” ruling.

Following that, in September, more than 1,200 activists in Taiwan took part in a mock “wedding banquet” in a bid to press for an amendment to the Civil Code.