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Obama: Gays deserve equal rights

US President Barack Obama has praised New York politicians debating historic legislation to legalise gay marriage, saying that was what democracies were supposed to do, and marriage has traditionally been decided by the states.

Mr Obama also said he believed that gay partners deserved the same legal rights as every other couple in the US, but, as expected, he stopped short of endorsing gay marriage outright.

The president was speaking at a Manhattan fundraiser for gay and lesbian donors - his first specifically for gay supporters.

Coincidentally the long-planned event happened just as politicians in New York's state capital Albany were manoeuvring towards a historic vote legalising same-sex marriage.

Negotiations were continuing as Mr Obama, who supports civil unions, not gay marriage, spoke.

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