In his most exhaustive comments to date on gay marriage, former President Bill Clinton says his position on the issue was “wrong.”

“I had all these gay friends, I had all these gay couple friends, and I was hung up about it,” Clinton says.

“And I decided I was wrong.”

As president, Clinton signed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that defines marriage as a heterosexual union for the federal government. DOMA bars married gay couples from receiving federal benefits such as Social Security and pensions. The law also allows states to ignore legal gay marriages performed outside their borders.

Clinton said in May that he was “evolving” on his position on gay marriage. Then in July, as he addressed the Campus National Conference in Washington, D.C., he expanded a bit by saying “I'm basically in support” of gay marriage, when asked.

Speaking Friday with Anderson Cooper on CNN's AC360, the former president went further. He not only added his support for giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry but he also explained how his position has evolved on the issue.

“I changed my position. I am no longer opposed to that [gay marriage]. I think if people want to make commitments that last a lifetime, they ought to be able to do it. I have long favored the right of gay couples to adopt,” he said.

“What made you change your mind?,” Cooper asked. “Was there one thing?”

“I think, what made me change my mind, I looked up and said look at all of this stuff you're for. I've always believed that – I've never supported all the moves of a few years ago to ban gay couples from adoption. Because there're all these kids out there looking for a home. And the standard on all adoption cases is: What is the best interest of the child?”

“And there are plenty of cases where the best interest of the child is to let the gay couple take them and give them a loving home. So I said, you know, I realized that I was over 60 years old, I grew up at a different time, and I was hung up about the word.”

“I had all these gay friends, I had all these gay couple friends, and I was hung up about it. And I decided I was wrong.”

“That our society has an interest in coherence and strength and commitment and mutually reinforcing loyalties, then if gay couples want to call their union marriage and a state agrees, and several have now, or a religious body will sanction it, and I don't think a state should be able to stop a religious body from saying it, I don't think the rest of us should get in the way of it.”

“I think it's a good thing not a bad thing. And I just realized that, I was, probably for, maybe just because of my age and the way I've grown up, I was wrong about that.”

“I just had too may gay friends. I saw their relationships. I just decided I couldn't, I had an untenable position,” he added.