Iowa gubernatorial candidate – and former governor – Terry Branstad has broken rank with other candidates seeking the Republican nomination on gay rights.

Republican gubernatorial candidates have sided with social conservatives who are rankled at Democratic leaders for blocking a resolution calling for an amendment in the Iowa constitution that would ban gay marriage. Last April, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously agreed that denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry was unconstitutional.

While Branstad also supports putting the issue up for a vote, he's clearly in favor of some gay rights.

“Well, I don't think people should be discriminated against,” Branstad said in a wide-ranging interview with the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

“And you know, certainly I recognize the situation as far as the hospital and things like that. I don't have a problem with that.” Branstad's comments could suggest he favors recognizing gay couples with civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Branstad also said he does not oppose gay adoption.

“I don’t have a problem with people that want to live together and raise a child and things like that,” he said. “In fact, Grace Copley, who was my clerk for years, or my secretary when I was lieutenant governor and governor, she has a son who’s gay, and he and his friend have adopted children and are raising the children. And Grace is a very conservative religious woman. It was a very difficult thing for her to deal with when this became the situation. But they did. And she still is not someone who is supportive of gay marriage, but she’s certainly supportive of her children and grandchildren.”

Even Branstad's limited support for gay rights puts him at odds with other Republican gubernatorial candidates who adamantly oppose gay rights. Bob Vander Plaats, for example, has enthusiastically welcomed the endorsement of the Iowa Family Policy Center, a group that opposes gay rights. Vander Plaats is the most vociferous anti-gay marriage gubernatorial candidate. He's pledged, if elected, to halt such weddings with an executive order until the issue is decided by voters. Most analysts have said such a move would not be legal.