US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama will fight for equal rights for gays just as he fought to help working-class families overcome poverty, according to the Democratic nominee’s wife.

Michelle Obama addressed the Democratic National Committee’s Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council at a gala dinner in New York City last night and renewed her husband’s promise to repeal federal policies that she says limit the rights of gays and lesbians.

She said: “Barack believes that we must fight for a world where together we work to reverse discriminatory laws like DOMA [Defence of Marriage Act] and ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’”

DOMA allows the federal government and individual states to ignore same sex marriages, even if those marriages are recognised in other states.

The law also defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman as enshrined in the US Constitution.

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” permits gay men and women to serve in the military but it prevents them from being open about their sexuality.

The Illinois Senator has pushed for workplace discrimination legislation and opposes a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

He told ABC News that states should be free to make their own decisions on the matter.

Michelle Obama also drew a connection between the struggles for gay rights and civil rights, drawing a standing ovation from the 250-strong crowd.

She said at the event, held days before the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots between gays and New York police, and the city’s annual gay pride parade:

“We are all only here because of those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall, in the pursuit of a more perfect union.”