President Obama made what's being heralded as a big announcement on same sex marriage. "I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," Obama told ABC News in an interview broadcast this morning. Obama's the first sitting president to come out in favor of same sex marriage.
But what this might actually mean in terms of policy is a little murkier. Perhaps most pressing is the issue of a so-called "nondiscrimination executive order" that gay-rights groups have been pushing. The president has refused—and continues to refuse—to sign it.
"The order, which has been drafted for months awaiting the president’s signature, would prohibit discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," the Washington Post reported. "It has become a major focus for gay-rights groups, but in recent weeks activists began to worry that the White House might opt against approval."
Obama's announcement today gives no indication that he's changed his mind on this issue.
Before today's announcement, according to the Post, the president's idleness on the issue had been considered a "stinging setback for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement, a key piece of Obama’s political base that had scored major victories from this White House — namely the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and the administration’s reversal of its position on whether to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act." Those victories "were widely viewed as having triggered an outpouring of financial support from gay donors for Obama’s reelection campaign."
Moreover, "Activists have been portraying the White House decision as a broken promise. They point to a report last month by the gay news site Metro Weekly that, as a candidate in 2008, Obama told a Houston advocacy group that he would support a non-discrimination policy for federal contractors."
Again, today's announcement does not suggest that Obama will now sign that executive order.
This is not the only policy issue that Obama has steered clear of. Already Obama has indicated that while he believes "same sex couples should be able to get married," he also believes states should be able to ban gay marriages. This is particularly pertinent in light of Tuesday's vote in North Carolina to ban same sex marriage. The ban overwhelmingly passed.