Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) says he believes people are born gay but are not guaranteed the right to marry within their own gender.

"I think it's entirely who you are from birth, personally," Kerry said in an interview to be broadcast on MTV. "Some people might choose, but I think that it's, it's who you are. I think you have ... people need to be able to be who they are."

Asked why he favors civil unions (search) instead of marriage if people are born gay, Kerry replied: "What is distinct is the institutional name or whatever people look at as the sacrament within a church, or within a synagogue or within a mosque as a religious institution. There is a distinction. And the civil state really just adopted that, and it's the rights that are important, not the sort of ... the name of the institution."

In a transcript released Friday by MTV for its Tuesday special "Choose or Lose: 20 Million Questions for John Kerry," the presumptive Democratic nominee said he favors civil unions to give people partnership, inheritance and other rights.

"I think that people have a right in America to be who they are," Kerry said. "I believe very strongly that we can advance the cause of equality by moving toward civil union."

President Bush supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a measure Kerry opposes on the grounds that marriage is a state issue. Kerry has said he would outlaw job discrimination against homosexuals, extend hate-crime protection to them, and allow them to serve openly in the military.

Bush has continued President Clinton's policy allowing gays to serve in the military if they are not open about their homosexuality.