Rep. Allen West, R-Fort Lauderdale, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel Tuesday that sexuality is a “behavior” that can be changed, something he’s “seen people do.”

The South Florida Republican said “that everyone has the same basic rights, and no one is telling people in the gay community that they don’t have the same basic rights that any American has.” Asked if gays and lesbians should change their behavior, West said no: “I like chocolate chip ice cream and I will continue to like chocolate chip ice cream. So there’s no worry about me changing to vanilla.”

The Sentinel adds that “West said he opposes gay marriage but civil unions for gay couples are fine. He said all adoptions need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis and he doesn’t object to gay couples adopting children.”

A scheduled appearance by West was cancelled after Michael Rajner, legislative director of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, demanded that Celeste Ellich, president of the Wilton Manor Business Association, disinvite the congressman because of West’s rhetoric on LGBT issues. The Business Association decision prompted a flurry of articles and letters about tolerance and free speech.

Sun Sentinel editorial argued that “intolerance is intolerable, and that’s why pressure on a Wilton Manors business group to disinvite a member of Congress is misguided.” The Christian Family Coalition of Miami said that “anti-American extremists and racists” forced the cancellation of the West event.

The recent dispute over the cancelled appearance also inspired the creation of a new organization, the Coalition for Fairness & Equality, and a new invitation to West “to address the community in his own words, and meet with his constituency.”

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