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June 24th, 2011
09:15 AM ET

President Obama backs rights for gay couples in New York fundraiser

(CNN) - President Barack Obama took his act to New York on Thursday as the featured attraction at three back-to-back fundraisers, where he touted his progressive credentials, including support for equal rights for gay couples.

Obama kicked off his evening at the LGBT Leadership Council gala at the Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan. After condemning discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, the president drew rigorous applause when he addressed same-sex couples.

"I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every couple in this country," Obama said.

The president, who during the 2008 campaign said he wouldn't promote same-sex marriage but did support civil unions, did not use the word "marriage" in his speech. His speech came amid some frustration that Obama, even given his efforts to rescind the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gays from serving openly, has not gone far or fast enough in backing gay rights.

In his speech, Obama acknowledged that the "change" he'd promised wouldn't be easy, nor would it always be quick.

"I did not run for president to do easy things," he said. "It was time for us to do hard things, the big things, even if it was going to take time."

About 600 people paid $1,250 apiece to attend the event. They included Jane Lynch of "Glee" and the night's master of ceremonies, Neil Patrick Harris of "How I Met Your Mother."

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