Jon Huntsman is running third behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul as voting begins Tuesday in the New Hampshire presidential primary.

A third place finish for Huntsman could be his ticket to relevancy in the GOP presidential nominating contest.

The 51-year-old former governor of Utah is considered the gay friendliest candidate among the six strongest contenders.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson strongly endorsed gay marriage shortly before he switched party affiliation from the GOP to the Libertarian Party, whose presidential nomination he is now seeking. Fred Karger is the only GOP presidential candidate in favor of gay marriage, but his low polling numbers have locked him out of all Republican debates.

Huntsman, who skipped socially conservative Iowa to focus on New Hampshire, doesn't support marriage equality, but he is has spoken in favor of civil unions and a state's right to adopt such laws.

However, Huntsman recently said that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) “serves a useful purpose.” DOMA is the federal law that bars agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay couples and allows states to ignore such marriage.

“It allows states to make their own decisions, to make their own way, and the Defense of Marriage Act, I think, is a safeguard for those states to make that decision,” Huntsman said during an event at the National Press Club in the District of Columbia.

According to at least 1 poll (Public Polling Policy), Huntsman is trailing Ron Paul by only 2 percentage points (Paul 18%; Huntsman 16%) and Mitt Romney is leading with 35 percent. Other polls show a wider gap between Paul and Huntsman, but the average is about 3 percent.