Dr. Ben Carson, renowned neurosurgeon and possible Republic presidential candidate, has apologized for his recent statements regarding gay people, saying his words do not fully reflect his heart on the issue.
Earlier this week, Dr. Carson came under fire after telling CNN's Chris Cuomo that being gay is "absolutely" a choice.
He explained, "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."
On Thursday, however, the 63 year old doctor issued an apology for his words, saying they do "not reflect fully" his heart on gay issues.
"I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended," Carson wrote in a recent Facebook post.
Referencing his medical education and work at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Carson backtracked on his earlier statement, saying science has not yet proven whether people are born either gay or straight.
"Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality," he said.
"We do know, however, that we are always born male and female. And I know that we are all made in God's image, which means we are all deserving of respect and dignity."
Dr. Carson, who recently took a clear step towards a presidential bid by forming an exploratory committee, added that he won't be talking about gay rights anymore. He explained, "because every time I'm gaining momentum, the liberal press says, let's talk about gay rights -- and I'm just not going to fall for that anymore."
However, he said that as a Christian, he believes marriage should be restricted to one man and one woman, and will not waver on that stance.
"We have something that's worked just fine for thousands of years to create a nurturing environment for raising children, and I think that's where we ought to leave it," Carson wrote.
He also emphasized that he supports Constitutional protections and civil unions for gay people, and reiterated his previous sentiment that the issue of allowing or restricting same-sex marriage should be decided on the state level, rather than by federal courts
"I also think that marriage is a religious institution," Carson said. "Religious marriage is an oath before God and congregation. Religious marriage must only be governed by the church. Judges and government must not be allowed to restrict religious beliefs."
In concluding his statements, Dr. Carson admitted that he previously discussed gay people without properly considering his words.
"No excuses. I deeply regret my statement and I promise you, on this journey, I may err again, but unlike politicians when I make an error I will take full responsibility and never hide or parse words," Carson said. "As a human being my obligation is to learn from my mistakes and to treat all people with respect and dignity."
Dr. Carson emerged as a favorite among many Conservatives in 2013 after he criticized President Barack Obama's policies at National Prayer Breakfast. Additionally, his bold stance on hot-button issues and dedication to his Biblical values have kept him in the forefront of several early GOP primary polls.
This past weekend, Dr. Carson came in fourth in the Conservative Political Action Conference's straw poll, and also came in fourth in The Real Clear Politics poll average.