By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on January 11 2010 10:40 AM ET

In a strong sign of his interest in challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Harold E. Ford Jr. told the Today show on NBC Monday morning that he supports marriage equality.

Ford, a former congressman from Tennessee who moved to New York, made the comment in an interview with show cohost Matt Lauer.

Lauer asked Ford, "So you're now in favor of same sex marriage?"

"Civil unions and same-sex marriage, yes," said Ford, according to the New York Post, which confirmed the support with a Ford spokesperson.

Ford, who as a congressman voted for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, has come under fire from gay rights advocates as he reportedly weighs a bid to challenge Gillibrand, an outspoken gay rights supporter, in the Democratic primary.

According to the Post, Ford hedged and invoked other Democratic leaders when Lauer asked whether his views represented a “change” in position.

"Maybe in the language,” said Ford. “But I'm a believer that benefits should flow to same-sex partners, and if indeed the fiction of the language, the title, should be changed, much like Chuck Schumer, who changed his mind on it, and Bill Clinton's evolved, I'm of the opinion now that nothing is wrong with that,” he said.