President Barack Obama's announcement that he supports gay marriage brings the presidential stamp of approval to the divisive social issue but does not carry swift policy changes along with it.
Obama described his decision as a personal position. White House officials said his decision would not affect current policies. The president said he continued to believe that marriage is an issue best decided by states.
Here's a look at some of the top legislative issues pertaining to gay rights:
_ Six states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Nine states allow civil unions or have domestic partnership laws that provide equivalent rights. Maine, Maryland and Washington state lawmakers have moved toward gay marriage, with final outcomes possibly to be decided by voters in November.
_ Obama repealed the military's 18-year-old ban on openly gay service members, known as "don't ask, don't tell." The repeal took effect in September 2011, allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly.
_ Obama instructed the Justice Department in February 2011 to stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and gives states the right to refuse to recognize such marriages. Obama has said he supports the law's repeal but most observers say it will be difficult to overturn it without a major shift in Congress.
_ Obama signed hate crimes legislation in October 2009 that made it a federal crime to assault someone because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
_ Gay rights organizations have unsuccessfully urged Obama to sign an executive order barring discrimination against gays and lesbians who work for companies with federal contracts.
_ Gay rights advocates have sought legislation that would allow employees, their spouses and dependent children to continue participation in their employer-sponsored health coverage, typically at their own expense, after the employee loses a job or leaves employment.
_ Another proposal pursued by gay rights groups would bar public child welfare agencies that receive federal aid from discriminating against any potential foster or adoptive family on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
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