The Republican party Vice Presidential candidate has spoken out against the rights of lesbian and gay Americans.

Sarah Palin, who was a controversial choice as John McCain’s running mate in the November election, spoke out during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.

In 2004 President Bush tried, and failed, to amend the US constitution to ban gay marriage.

Senator McCain has said that the issue is one for the states to decide.

Ms Palin, the Governor of Alaska, has some appeal to rightwing Christians, the voters who propelled President Bush into the White House in 2000 and 2004.

Her lack of experience and knowledge of world affairs has hampered her candidacy and wounded the McCain campaign – he is trailing in the national polls and in key swing states.

In her interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network Ms Palin said she had voted in 1998 for an Alaska state amendment to ensure gay and lesbian couples could not get married.

“I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman,” she said.

“I wish on a federal level that’s where we would go. I don’t support gay marriage.”

In her debate with Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden earlier this month Ms Palin said she was tolerant of gays and claimed to have a friend who is a lesbian.

Appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show yesterday, Senator Biden said he opposes a California voter initiative to ban gay marriage in the state.

During the VP debate earlier this month he said:

“In an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

“Neither Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage.”

At 44, Ms Palin is three years younger than Barack Obama and 28 years younger than Senator McCain.

She was elected Governor of Alaska less than two years ago. Her husband Todd is a Yup’ik Alaskan native.

Her image as a hunting, shooting, snowmobile-riding outdoors woman helped boost her popularity in Alaska.

While she claims to be receptive to arguments about discrimination, she said she would support a statewide ballot question in Alaska that would deny benefits to homosexual couples.

“I believe that honouring the family structure is that important,” she told the Anchorage Daily News in 2006.

However, she later reluctantly agreed to follow the state Supreme Court ruling that same sex partners should receive equal benefits to heterosexual couples.

Asked about her views on homosexuality during a TV interview earlier in the campaign, Ms Palin stated that homosexuality is a “choice.”

“I am not going to judge Americans and the decisions that they make in their adult personal relationships,” she claimed.

Ms Palin said one of her “absolute best friends” is a lesbian.

“She is not my gay friend, she is one of my best friends who happens to have made a choice that isn’t a choice that I have made, but I’m not going to judge people,” she said.