President Obama has said that New York’s move to legalise gay marriage is a “good thing” but still won’t endorse the right of gay couples to wed.

Yesterday, he held a news conference and a reception for gay rights campaigners. At both events, he refused to give his personal view on the issue.

Instead, he praised the New York Senate’s vote on gay marriage, saying: “What you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues.

“It was contentious, it was emotional, but ultimately, they made a decision to recognise civil marriages. And I think that’s exactly how things should work.”

At the reception, he listed his gay rights achievements and told attendees: “I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community.

“I know there are going to be times where you’re still frustrated with the pace of change. I understand that. I know I can count on you to let me know.”

The president has never promised action on gay marriage. In 2008, he said he supported civil unions instead.

However, in December, he told campaigners that his views on the matter were “evolving”.

Gay writer Dan Savage, who was at the reception, told Politico.com: “He says he’s evolving, I believe him. I want to hurry him along.”

Last week’s vote made New York the sixth state to legalise gay marriage. However, 41 states have explicit bans on gay marriage and only a handful allow civil unions.

The president needs the support of the LGBT community for the next election.

According to a CNN exit poll, four per cent of voters are gay or lesbian and 70 per cent of them voted for Obama in 2008.