Last Thursday six Democratic presidential hopefuls attended a forum focusing on gay issues, sponsored by a gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign, and hosted by Logo, a gay TV channel.

There were a couple of statements that stood out to me. The always astute John Edwards said we have to speak out about intolerance lest it becomes “OK for the Republicans in their politics to divide America and use hate-mongering to separate us.” To accuse Republicans of dividing America when there are two political parties that are divided on issues is a little ironic. And talk about hate-mongering: he is guilty of fostering hatred toward Republicans by accusing them of hate-mongering. He is separating Americans by dividing non-Republicans from Republicans.

New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, indicated that he thinks the nation is headed toward marriage equality between heterosexuals and homosexuals (same-sex marriage), but thinks that “what is achievable” right now “is civil unions with full marriage rights.” In other words, what is achievable right now is to give homosexuals all the rights that belong to traditional marriage, but just call it something else. Eventually, once the public gets used to the legal recognition of homosexual couples, the name will be changed from civil unions to marriage. This approach is so deceptive. Civil unions of this sort are de facto marriage—marriage by another name. The fight over marriage is not about who gets to use the word marriage, but the legal recognition of homosexual couples.

Even though people like Richardson support giving homosexuals all the benefits of marriage, some homosexuals still aren’t happy. Human Rights Campaign president, Joe Solmonese said, “The overwhelming majority of the candidates do not support marriage equality. While we heard very strong commitments to civil unions and equality in federal rights and benefits, their reasons for opposing equality in civil marriage tonight became even less clear.” These types of statements make it clear that the fight for same-sex marriage is not about the benefits, but social approval. The fact of the matter is that if they were only interested in being treated equally, they would be satisfied with civil unions. But they aren’t. They want their relationships to be viewed as equal to heterosexual relationships. They want the same sort of public approval afforded to heterosexual couples, and nothing short of calling their legally recognized relationships “marriage” will achieve this.

In one sense I agree with Solmonese. He has every right to question why people are willing to give homosexuals all the same benefits of marriage, but not call it marriage. This is like saying “You can be employed at the same place we’re employed, work just like we work, make the same money we make, get the same health insurance we get, but you will not have a ‘job.’ ” That makes no sense.