Pacquiao in storm over gays
Los Angeles - Manny Pacquiao says he loves and supports gays and lesbians, even though he does not approve of gay marriage.
The world champion and Filipino congressman has been criticised over an interview in which he opposed president Barack Obama's support for gay marriage.
Pacquiao said on Wednesday he does not support gay marriage because of his Roman Catholic beliefs. But he has gay friends and relatives, and supports their rights.
"I'm not against the gay people," Pacquiao said. "I'm not condemning them.
He has a cousin, other relatives and friends who are gay “so I'm not condemning gays. What I said (in the interview with the examiner.com website) is I'm not in favour of same-sex marriage.
“I said I'm against same-sex marriage. He said, 'Why?' I said, 'It's the law of God.' That's all I said."
The website’s article contained a Bible passage calling for the death of "a man (who) lies with a man". Pacquiao said many readers believed he had quoted that verse. He said he had not.
"My favourite verse in the Bible is 'Love one another,' and 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself,'" Pacquiao said. "It's in the Bible: Do not judge. I'm not judging."
Pacquiao was banned from a popular Hollywood shopping mall after the article was publicised on Tuesday.
An online petition encouraging sponsor Nike to drop Pacquiao received 4 868 signatures before it was suspended on Wednesday morning.
The petition site posted a note saying that the author of the original article had clarified that Pacquiao did not cite the Bible passage.
Pacquiao is experiencing a newfound passion for religion and has socially conservative views in line with many Filipinos' beliefs.
But he was eager to clear his name after a 24-hour avalanche of criticism over the belief that the eight-division world champion had denounced gay rights and even supported the killing of gay people.
The expansive Los Angeles mall known as The Grove would not allow Pacquiao to film a segment of the syndicated entertainment-news show "Extra" on its premises.
Host Mario Lopez said The Grove had lifted its ban on Wednesday, shortly after the suspension of the petition to Nike, but his crew still planned to film its interview with Pacquiao at the fighter's home instead.
The boxer, who is also a Philippines congressman, said, "With great power comes great responsibility; so that's my responsibility: to handle everything.”
Pacquiao is the most famous Filipino and one of the world's most popular athletes. He is also a movie star and singer.
He has won 16 consecutive fights since March 2005, beating Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito. He will defend his WBO welterweight title against Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas on June 9.
Pacquiao has embraced Catholicism in recent months after marital troubles. He has taken up frequent Bible study, and travelled from the Philippines to the US. in the company of a spiritual adviser and pastor, Jeric Soriano, now a regular presence in Pacquiao's life in Los Angeles and the Philippines.
"It's difficult sometimes, but God gave me a talent," Pacquiao said. "He gave me a wisdom and a knowledge."
Although Pacquiao has some conservative social views, he also has ties to progressive American politicians, including Nevada senator Harry Reid. He campaigned for the Democratic majority leader during his re-election victory over Sharron Angle in 2010.
Pacquiao also visited Obama at the White House last year, discussing basketball and boxing. The fighter said he enjoyed meeting Obama, but didn't share his views on same-sex marriage.
Die champion is the fourth of six children and has four children of his own. He has spoken out against birth control during his political career, affirming his Roman Catholic beliefs.