CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. found himself fending off new questions about his decades-long record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, in a testy exchange with a female moderator who described his treatment of her as “condescending.”

During a Friday night forum focused on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, Mr. Biden seemed to recoil from the direct questioning from Lyz Lenz, a Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist.

In a question-and-answer session, Ms. Lenz repeatedly pressed Mr. Biden about his past votes for the Defense of Marriage Act, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that forbade openly gay people from serving and his statement earlier this year that Vice President Mike Pence was “a decent guy.”

Mr. Biden sought to defend himself, reminding the audience in a steamy auditorium that he supported same-sex marriage before President Obama. “I didn’t have to evolve,” he said.

Then, before an audience of 700 volunteers, activists and voters, he called Ms. Lenz “a lovely person,” prompting her to reply, “just asking the questions people want to know.

Offstage after their exchange, she wrote on Twitter that Mr. Biden called her “a little sweetheart.”

“I interpreted it as a little condescending,” Ms. Lenz said in a backstage interview, echoing the immediate criticism of some prominent feminists on social media.

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