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May 11, 2012 5:52 AM by AP

Gay rights backers see history in Obama's stand

NEW YORK (AP) - At a birthplace of the gay rights movement, patrons of New York City's Stonewall Inn said they felt like they were living history. In Wyoming, the mother of a man beaten to death because of his sexuality said words couldn't express her gratitude. An 82-year-old photographer who chronicled protests in the 1960s called it "a new dawn."

President Barack Obama's declaration Wednesday that he supports gay marriage may have lacked the urgency of Kennedy's 1963 push for the Civil Rights Act, or the force and finality of the Emancipation Proclamation, but it was still being greeted as a major milestone among people who care about gay rights.

"It signifies a history-changing moment when a president finally says, 'I'm on your side.' It's a critical moment," said Stacy Lentz, a co-owner of the Stonewall, a reincarnated version of the unlicensed gay bar in Manhattan's West Village that was the site of riots following a police raid in 1969.

Just how big of a moment remains to be seen. While public opinion polls show an increasing number of Americans are receptive of gay marriage, and accepting of homosexuality in general, the movement hasn't fared well at the ballot box. On Tuesday, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Still, at mileposts and bastions in the struggle, Obama's words were being welcomed.

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