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Activist: Obama Announcement "Will Have Enormous Impact"

Twenty years ago, the Democratic fundraiser and activist David Mixner was arrested outside the White House. Now, he's celebrating.

Posted on May 9, 2012, at 4:44 p.m. ET

David Mixner has been fighting for gay marriage since it seemed like a pipe dream.

The veteran gay rights activist became a prominent figure in the 1990s when, after emerging as one of President Bill Clinton's top gay supporters and fundraisers, he broke dramatically with the president over his ban on openly gay and lesbian people serving in the military. Mixner, who had been seen as Clinton's closest gay advisor, was arrested in the summer of 1993 after chaining himself to the White House fence.

Today, Mixner hailed President BArack Obama's endorsement of gay marriage today as "historic and extremely important."

"His words and his actions will have enormous impact across the nation in many states," Mixner tod BuzzFeed. "It could influence referendums in Washington, Maryland, and Maine."

Mixner said the president was setting a precedent for a "whole new standard of taking this issue as a legitimate powerful civil rights issue" and that the announcement would "generate huge enthusiasm in his base."

Mixner said that he'd recently come to expect that the president would eventually endorse gay marriage, but "I'm stunned that he did it before the election."

"I think he should have, I think he's doing the right thing morally, ethically and politically, and showing enormous courage."

Mixner didn't take issue with Obama's past record on the subject.

"The whole purpose of working all these years to reach this moment for me is to change minds," he said. "Not to punish people on their timing, but to celebrate when you reach a mutual point of enlightenment."