Source AP ©

US Democratic presidential candidates attend gay political forum

The leading Democratic presidential candidates faced pointed questions on gay marriage and the basis for sexual orientation in TV forum.

Former Sen. John Edwards found himself discussing whether he is comfortable around gay people - he said he is. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson appeared to struggle with a question about why people become gay or lesbian. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ended up defending the record of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, on gay rights.

"We certainly didn't get as much done as I would have liked," the New York senator said. "But there was a lot of honest effort."

Six of the eight Democratic candidates answered questions Thursday on gay rights at the two-hour forum co-sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group active in Democratic politics, and Logo, a gay-oriented cable TV channel that aired the forum live.

Organizers said it marked the first time that major presidential candidates appeared on TV specifically to address gay issues. The candidates appeared one at a time in an upholstered chair on a Hollywood studio set and took questions from a panel that included singer Melissa Etheridge.

The candidates underscored differences with Republicans on gay and lesbian rights, but leading candidates also faced aggressive questioning on their reluctance to embrace marriage for same-sex couples.

All of the Democratic candidates support a federal ban on anti-gay job discrimination, want to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays from serving openly in the military and support civil unions that would extend marriage-like rights to same-sex couples.