LOS ANGELES -- The leading Democratic presidential candidates struck a delicate balance yesterday evening between showing commitment to expand the rights of gay people while justifying their opposition to same-sex marriage during the campaign's first-ever televised forum focused on gay issues.
In an evening devoted to sensitive issues of sexuality and social mores, there were also riveting moments of frankness.
Perhaps the most personal question of the evening was posed to Sen. Hillary Clinton by Etheridge, who told Clinton that she had felt personally hurt and abandoned by the Clintons. "What," she asked, "are you going to do to be different than that?"
"We certainly didn't get as much done as I would have liked," Clinton said, "but there was a lot of honest effort."
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois turned to the history of the civil rights movement and his personal biography as the son of a mixed-race couple to counsel patience to gay couples who hope for the legal recognition of marriage.
Like all the Democratic candidates except Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Sen. Mike Gravel, who both support gay marriage, Obama supports only civil unions for gay couples.
He cited the need to "disentangle" the issue of legal rights for gay couples from what "has historically been the issue of the word marriage, which has religious connotations to some people."