It's significant progress that Democratic candidates were willing to devote an entire debate (or "conversation" as it was billed) to the issue of gay rights. Granted, the evening ended up mostly centering on the issue of gay marriage, even though there are a number of issues concerning the GLBT community that weren't even touched.
The Family Research Council (Action division) made sure to send out an email that said, "Joining a debate that caters to only 4 [percent] of the voting population--and highlights a behavior that a majority of Americans still consider "morally wrong"--carries obvious risks. So why the primetime pandering?" The FRC backed this up with polling numbers where anywhere from 28 to34 percent of the population says they'd be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports gay rights. The number of self-identified evangelical or born-again Christians totaled 23 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, those that support "full" marriage rights for gays are polling around 40 percent.
So it seems that progressive candidates are "pandering" to a larger minority of the population than the conservative candidates do.
Cross-posted at Campus Progress.