Gay-marriage supporters in Massachusetts applaud President Obama's support on issue

For gay rights supporters in Massachusetts, President Barack Obama’s Wednesday announcement that he supports same-sex marriage was cause for celebration — and pride.

“There’s no question that the work we did here so many years ago really laid the foundation for America’s evolution on this issue,” said Kara Suffredini, executive director of Mass Equality.

The president’s declaration, she said, may be one of the most important moments yet for gay rights advocates, Suffredini said.

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“It’s hard to imagine anything more significant to the marriage equality movement than the most powerful leader in the world declaring his support for equal rights for LGBT people,” she said.

In an interview with ABC News Wednesday afternoon, Obama said his interactions with his neighbors, White House staffers, and members of the military who are in committed same-sex relationships caused him to have a change of heart.

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that, 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,” Obama said.

Governor Deval Patrick issued a statement applauding Obama for affirming that “we are a country that stands for the basic values of equality and opportunity.”

“Since 2004, same-sex couples in Massachusetts have had the security of knowing that their families have the same rights and protections as every other family, including health care benefits and hospital visitation rights,” Patrick said. “The President’s words today give same-sex couples across the country still awaiting those rights a powerful reason to feel hopeful.”

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, an advocacy group that is opposed to gay marriage, said he believes Obama’s professed shift in attitude toward gay marriage has been disingenuous.

“He has gone from supporting the redefinition of marriage in 1996 as a candidate for state senate, to opposing same-sex marriage as a candidate for both US Senate in 2004 and President in 2008, to now once again supporting it in 2012,” Mineau said in a statement.

“The president is the ultimate flip-flop-flipper,” Mineau also said. “How many flips does Mr. Obama get on this issue?”

Lee Swislow, executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said she anticipates that the president’s pronouncement will “lead to more conversations about the issue.”

Swislow said Obama’s shifting position on same-sex marriage mirrors the evolution of attitudes toward same-sex marriage around the country.

“He’s the president, but he’s also a citizen like so many other citizens in this country who have thought deeply about this issue and come through their own personal journey, and have come to support marriage equality,” Swislow said. “It’s fantastic.”