"Can you choose to be gay?" CNN's Don Lemon posed the question to his guests, Ben Ferguson, Sally Kohn and HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill, over and over again Wednesday night.
The discussion was sparked by comments Ben Carson made to CNN's Chris Cuomo earlier that day, suggesting that homosexuality is a choice because people "go into prison straight -- and when they come out, they're gay." The comments quickly caused a furor and the presidential hopeful was forced to issue a public apology.
While Kohn and Hill both offered counter arguments to Carson's incendiary remarks, Ferguson chose to back them up, insisting that a person's sexual orientation is, indeed, a matter of will.
“I think people choose to do different things every day, including if they choose to be gay or bisexual or transgendered [sic] or whatever it may be,” he said. “There are a lot of people that choose different things. I don’t think that's some shocking new revelation.”
Lemon pressed Ferguson further, asking if he himself could, in fact, choose to be gay.
“I’m not gay, that’s pretty obvious. I’m heterosexual,” Ferguson said, to which Hill shot back: "It's not obvious."
Kohn offered perhaps the most sound response to Carson's views, however, stating that whether a person can choose to be gay is not truly the issue, it's that conservative's use the veil of choice to advance an anti-gay agenda.
"What Dr. Carson is referring to is an argument that comes out of a right wing anti-gay mentality, that if you choose to be gay you can therefore, and should therefore, choose not to be gay," she said. "And the fact that sexual identity is a fungible choice is an argument for denying equal rights and fair treatment."
"So the choice thing isn't the issue here," she continued. "The issue is why don't we treat people equally regardless of their identity, however they come to it."