President Barack Obama said gays and lesbians should receive equal treatment but stopped short of endorsing gay marriage during a news conference Wednesday, carefully parsing his answers to questions about New York's landmark same-sex marriage law.

In his prepared remarks Obama focused on the U.S. economy, criticizing Republican intransigence in debt talks, and charging that their stance favors the wealthy. Reporters asked him afterwards for his reaction to New York passing gay marriage but he studiously avoided saying anything new.

Obama appeared to lend the issue his moral backing, pointing to a profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers and sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers, and that they've got to be treated like every other American. But he parried a question from a reporter asking if his personal support for the issue would translate into broader action, saying I'm not going to make news on that today. Good try though.

When NBC's Chuck Todd asked if the thought same-sex marriage was constitutional Obama praised the New York legislature for having a debate, noting that states deciding the issue is exactly how things should work.

Obama's position on same sex marriage has come under increasing scrutiny now that the nation's largest state has legalized same sex marriage. While Obama instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act the president has been cautious in his support for same-sex marriage, saying only that his views on the issue are evolving. He has also drawn rebukes for his strategy of leaving the issue up to the states, with critics arguing that a similar strategy of deferring to the states has earlier been used to forestall national changes in civil rights issues like interracial marriage.