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Last Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007, 04:45 GMT 05:45 UK
Democrats reach out to gay voters
Barack Obama
The candidates took questions from a panel
Six US Democratic presidential hopefuls have taken part in a landmark campaign debate on gay and lesbian issues.

The forum saw each participant quizzed individually rather than debating with each other in the traditional fashion.

Frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both defended their opposition to same-sex marriage.

Gay voters are estimated to make up at least 3% of the electorate nationwide and vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.

PARTICPATING DEMOCRATS
Hillary Clinton
John Edwards
Mike Gravel
Dennis Kucinich
Barack Obama
Bill Richardson

The forum, broadcast from Hollywood live and online by gay and lesbian television station Logo, was the first of its kind in a presidential campaign.

Logo, available in about 27 million homes, wanted to hold a second forum for Republican candidates but frontrunners showed no interest, channel officials said.

Marriage debate

The candidates took questions from a panel that included Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, singer Melissa Etheridge and Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart.

We have made it clear in our country that we believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we're having now
Hillary Clinton
Six of the eight Democratic candidates took part in the debate, with only Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd unable to appear.

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 for same-sex couples.

Most Americans oppose nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage and only two of the Democrats support it - Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich.

Mrs Clinton said her stance on marriage was "a personal position".

"I prefer to think of it as being pro-civil unions," she said.

"It's a personal position... We have made it clear in our country that we believe in equality. How we get to full equality is the debate we're having now."

Mr Obama said that from his perspective, civil union "wouldn't be a lesser thing".

"Semantics may be important to some but what I'm interested in is making sure that those legal rights are available to all."

The BBC's Jonathan Beale, in Washington, says this was an opportunity for the Democratic presidential candidates to highlight their differences with their Republican rivals and also to appeal to a largely sympathetic audience to boost their own support.

For the front-runners this was a carefully calculated appearance, but one where there was in fact little to distinguish between them, our correspondent adds.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Candidates state their views on gay marriage



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