President Obama for the first time adopted the language of same-sex marriage advocates today, explicitly telling a crowd of LGBT and Latino donors in New York City that his support for "marriage equality" is a reason he deserves a second term.
"The announcement I made last week about my views on marriage equality - on principle, the basic idea that I want everybody treated fairly in this country. We have never gone wrong when we have expanded rights and responsibilities to everybody," Obama said. "That doesn't weaken families, it strengthens families. It was the right thing to do."
The crowd of around 200 supporters, who each paid $5,000 or more to attend, burst into loud applause.
Obama last week revealed in an interview with ABC News that he had reversed longstanding personal opposition to same-sex marriages after a period of reflection and conversation with family and colleagues. Later, in speeches at three West Coast fundraisers, he referred to the marriage issue, but only obliquely.
At tonight's event, Obama cast his position on gay rights as part of a host of issues on which there is a stark contrast between him and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom he suggested is more extreme than his opponent of four years ago.
"This choice is going to be as important as any choice we've made for a very long time - in some ways more important than 2008, because we've got a very clear contrast this time," Obama said. "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 basically he'd rubber stamp a Republican Congress that wants us to go backwards instead of forward on a whole range of issues."
The president said the debate over the next five months would center on taxes, spending and the trade-offs involved in cuts to both.
"I think the American people are on our side with this," Obama told the crowd. "The only thing holding us back is that things are still tough out there."
Of the Republican case against him, Obama said, "Their message is very simple: you're frustrated, you're dissatisfied and it's Obama's fault."
"This is going to be a tough race, a tight race, and nobody should be taking this for granted," he said.