The Governor of Utah has been criticized for claiming Attorney Generals refusing to defend same-sex marriage bans is equivalent to “anarchy”.

Gary Herbert said on Thursday: “For elected officials, governors or attorney generals, to pick and choose what laws [they] will enforce I think is a tragedy, and is the next step to anarchy.

“We have an obligation as a state to defend those laws.”

He was speaking after officials in Oregon and Pennsylvania joined the ranks of those who have refused to defend constitutional bans.

In Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum argued for the state’s ban to be struck down, joining the prosecution and leaving the ban undefended.

Herbert also suggested homosexuality could be a choice, saying: “What you choose to do with your sexual orientation is different than what you’re born with as your race.

“Clearly the actions involved in sexual activity ultimately end up being choices. What your attraction may be is something else, but how you act upon those impulses is a choice.”

John Netto, the head of the Utah Pride Centre, told the Salt Lake Tribune: “To suggest that allowing gay marriage is the foundation of anarchy, to us, is hate speech.”

“We think he is uneducated on current scientific positions in regard to human sexuality.”

“We are quite confident that the 18 or 19 states that have legal marriage are not in a state of anarchy, and there has been no damage done to heterosexual marriage.

“We absolutely think he should apologize, and we think he should reach out and we think he should get some education.”

Same-sex marriages were briefly allowed in Utah in December, but were halted when the state appealed, putting the ban temporarily back in place.

Earlier this week, the 10th Circuit Appeals Court found that the state must recognise the marriages carried out while same-sex marriage was legal.