Democrat Presidential hopeful John Edwards announced yesterday that he will not support same-sex marriage, but neither will he support a constitutional amendment to ban it.

Senator Edwards, who ran for vice-president with John Kerry in 2004, is one of the fore-runners in the Democrat race to win back the White House.

At a forum speaking with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, he said he did not personally feel gays should be able to marry, but that as president he would not impose his belief system on the rest of the country.

Previously Edwards had said he would not take a position on same-sex marriage as he “was just not there yet.”

Edwards is thought to be a supporter of civil unions and of increased domestic partnership benefits.

When Edwards ran with John Kerry in 2004, the Southern Christian was thought to be a welcome contrast to Kerry’s liberalism, which would pull in votes from the notorious US Bible Belt.

In March 2007, Edwards was branded a “faggot” by Ann Coulter, who was internationally criticised by pundits. Edwards said: “I think it’s important that we not reward hateful, selfish, childish behaviour with attention.”

The forum was organised by liberal Evangelical institution Sojournors.

Hillary Clinton has often contradicted herself on her gay rights stance. She is against gay marriage, but wants same-sex couples to have “full equality” under the civil union provisions.

She is opposed to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and has been a vocal critic of the US army’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Barack Obama is opposed to a constitutional ban on gay marriage because he believes it should be up to the individual states.

He supports civil unions, but believes that marriage is defined as a religious bond between a man and a woman.

The primaries to decide on the successful candidate will begin in January 2008.