A group of business leaders and Hollywood celebrities are urging President Obama to support gay rights more strongly by backing same-sex marriage.

In a letter to the president released on Monday, actors, business leaders, athletes and media personalities asked Obama to “end discrimination in marriage.”


"We ask you now for your leadership on ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, an exclusion that harms millions of Americans each day. Whether to end discrimination in marriage is a question America has faced before, and faces again today," the letter says. "With so many Americans talking it through in heartfelt conversations, it is a question that calls for clarity from the President."

The letter, signed by media personality Ellen DeGeneres, musician Rufus Wainwright and businessman and philanthropist David Geffen, is part of the pro-gay-marriage organization Freedom to Marry's "Say I Do" campaign.

“My wife and I were married in May of 2010, and I can say without a doubt that marriage matters,” Emmy-winning actor Jane Lynch said in a statement.  “As President Obama continues his journey toward recognizing our right to equal taxation, protection and dignity under the law, I encourage him to listen to gay and lesbian couples and families so he can better understand how marriage equality affects us all.”

Gay-rights groups have criticized Obama for dragging his feet on the issue of gay rights. Obama pushed for the military’s repeal of its “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and recently ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of gay marriage. Obama has not backed gay marriage, but has said "attitudes evolve, including mine" on same-sex marriage.