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LI leaders react to Obama announcement

A sign on a motorcycle during the New

A sign on a motorcycle during the New York City gay pride march. The state legislature voted June 24 to legalize same-sex marriage. It is the sixth state to do so. (June 26, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo applauded President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday in support of legalizing same-sex marriage and for framing it as a civil right rather than a religious issue.

Long Island leaders also weighed in on the polarizing issue that has realized a national shift toward acceptance.

Cuomo said the president's decision will prompt Americans to reconsider the issue, as New Yorkers did last year when state lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage after Cuomo campaigned hard for it.

"He referenced the point that New York went out of its way to make it clear this was a civil discussion, and not a religious discussion, and the New York law makes that clear," Cuomo said.

"I think the fact that the president of the United States takes this position will cause people around the country to say, 'Well, let me think about this again,' " Cuomo said. "Consistency is nice, but sometimes evolution is smarter."

Though some Long Islanders were not enthused by Obama's shift, others were ecstatic.

Daniel F. Donovan Jr., chairman of the Nassau County Conservative Party, said he's not surprised that Obama now supports same-sex marriage, calling it less a change of heart than a politically expedient move in an election year.

"He wants to get re-elected so he's going to his base," Donovan said. "That's why he did it."

Donovan said he shares the Roman Catholic Church's teachings that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman.

"To me it's a threat to the traditional family," Donovan said. "The children are going to schools. They're going to know kids who have two mommies and two daddies. That is brought home and I have to re-educate them."

But gay and lesbian activists celebrated Obama's endorsement of an issue they have fought for over many years.

"Today is just a tremendous day in America," said David Kilmnick, chief executive of the Long Island GLBT Services Network. "I really respect that fact that he, in the middle of a campaign season, spoke how he truly feels and how he wants to take the country in a direction where all Americans have equal opportunities . . . I think today is a day to celebrate. He did something today that speaks more to his courage and bravery."

Beverly Boyarsky, minister of Beacon of Light Ministry in North Babylon, said she felt proud that Obama revealed a sentiment she had not expected to hear a president express in her lifetime.

"We are just like everyone else," said Boyarsky, who is married to a woman with whom she has an 18-year-old son. "We are parents. We have children. It's time that we are treated equally as citizens in this country. He's the first president in the United States to stand up for what love truly is about."

With Yancey Roy

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