By Brigitte Dusseau (AFP) – May 9, 2012
NEW YORK — The blackboard on the sidewalk outside the storied Stonewall Inn, a New York bar widely seen as the home of the US gay rights movement, said it all: "Obama supports gay marriage -- let's drink."
Inside the Greenwich Village watering hole, patrons celebrated US President Barack Obama's decision Wednesday to publicly back same-sex marriage -- but also expressed concern that the risk could cost him re-election.
"It's historic, I am very happy," Ari Spectorman, a 50-year-old financial advisor visiting New York, told AFP.
"It shows how fast this issue has evolved in the minds of the public. Politicians are not afraid anymore. The tide has turned."
Obama made a high-risk political gamble when he told ABC News: "I've just concluded, for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."
Don Murray, 47, who was celebrating with his partner Clarence over margaritas and beers, hailed Obama's "great gesture," but said he wished the Democratic incumbent had waited until after election day on November 6.
"I wouldn't want ...to jeopardize his reelection," Murray said. "That wouldn't help the gay community at all, and it will just make it harder as well for the Democrats running for the House of Representatives."
The Stonewall Inn became a landmark in 1969, when a series of violent demonstrations took place that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States.
In the darkened bar, Bryan Ellicott, a 22-year-old transsexual, waved away such concerns.
"He will be re-elected. The entire gay community will back him up. We need equality," said Ellicott, his baseball cap pulled snugly down on his head.
"I am happy. I was eager to hear him verbalize it -- he has been on the fence for a while."
Obama, who previously backed strong protections for gay and lesbian couples but not full marriage, said his position had evolved after talking to his two daughters Malia and Sasha, who had friends with same-sex parents.
"It wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them and frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective," Obama said in the interview.
New York is one of the six US states where gay marriage is legal. It is also legal in the US capital Washington, DC.
So for many in New York City, Obama's announcement changes nothing about their lives, and some even said they still did not believe in the institution of marriage.
Stonewall patrons scurried to use their smartphones to send the news to friends. Niki Buchanan, 37, said he had learned of Obama's statement from his roommate via text message.
Buchanan, a ponytailed Ohio native who came to New York to pursue his dream of becoming an actor, said: "I'll be the first in line to vote for him. He is trying to change the minds of people, he believes in human beings."
At the bar, 48-year-old Rick, who only gave his first name, said he had no intention of celebrating.
"I think he made a bad strategic mistake," he said. "He just lost five states on that. He might not be reelected."
But in another corner of the bar, Don Murray and Clarence were definitely partying -- they were discussing the prospect of getting married. It was their first talk about the matter.
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