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Obama: Gay marriage 'doesn't weaken families, it strengthens families'

Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign fundraiser May 14, 2012 at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City.


NEW YORK, N.Y. – Speaking at an event for the first time since announcing his support for same-sex marriage, President Obama said his position was part of his campaign philosophy, rooted, he said, in “the basic idea that I want everybody treated fairly in this country.”

“So much of this has to do with a belief that not only are we all in this together but all of us are equal in terms of dignity, in terms of respect,” the president said to the cheers of 200 people -- including singer Ricky Martin and actress Eva Longoria -- at the Rubin Museum of Art in downtown New York City. 

Consistent with that belief, Obama continued, “the announcement I made last week about my views on marriage equality.”

“We have never gone wrong when we expanded rights and responsibilities to everybody,” he said. “That doesn't weaken families, it strengthens families.”

The event was co-hosted by Martin, the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Leadership Council and the Futuro Fund, a Latino get-out-the-vote organization affiliated with the Obama campaign.

Obama also seemed to turn a word commonly associated with conservative social issues – “values” – on its head, saying that he too believes “values” are a key factor in this election.

“It's been said that this election is going to be about values and I absolutely agree,” he said. “It's about the economic values we have, the values that I believe are what makes America so special.”

While this appearance was more about framing his own policies than those of his opponents, the president did seek to define Mitt Romney as an empty vessel of Congressional Republicans, contrasting him with his 2008 presidential opponent John McCain whom he suggested was a more independent thinker.

“We've got a very clear contrast this time. John McCain believed in climate change and believed in immigration reform. On some issues there was a sense of independence. What we've got this time out is a candidate who said he’d basically rubber-stamp a Republican Congress who wants us to go backwards and not forwards on a whole range of issues.”

Obama urged his LGBT supporters to stay active, warning them against what he called the outsized influence of outside spending groups who have a simple but powerful message.

“Their message is simple: You're frustrated, you're angry and it's Obama’s fault,” he said.