Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a previous appearance… (Chris Usher / CBS News )
WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul, who said he wasn't sure President Obama's views on marriage "could get any gayer," was rebuked by an influential evangelical leader Sunday.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, appearing onCBS' "Face the Nation," strongly disagreed with the Kentucky Republican's choice of words.
"I don't think this is something we should joke about," Perkins said. "We are talking about individuals who feel very strongly one way or the other, and I think we should be civil, respectful, allowing all sides to have the debate.... I think this is not something to laugh about. It's not something to poke fun at other people about. This is a very serious issue."
Perkins' words were echoed by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on NBC's"Meet the Press" Sunday.
"People in this country, no matter straight or gay, deserve dignity and respect. However, that doesn't mean it carries on to marriage," Priebus said. "I think that most Americans agree that in this country, the legal and historic and the religious union marriage has to have the definition of one man and one woman."
Paul made his remarks during a meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa on Friday.
"The president recently weighed in on marriage and you know he said his views were evolving on marriage. Call me cynical, but I wasn't sure his views on marriage could get any gayer," he said, drawing laughter from the audience.
Same-sex marriage surged to the forefront of political debate after Obama declared his support last week.
In an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts — hastily arranged to quiet the fallout from Vice PresidentJoe Biden's comments days earlier that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage — Obama said: "At a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married." He also said it was "the golden rule, you know? Treat others the way you'd want to be treated."
In response, likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney reiterated his belief that "marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."
And Rand Paul's father, GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, said the government should not make rules on marriage.
The libertarian view, he told Fox News, is, "Stay out of people's lives. I would like the state to stay out of marriage.... Let two people define marriage."