Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, a gay rights advocacy group, said that if the court had ruled that there was an inherent right, Obama would have been in an awkward political spot that marriage equality advocates could have leveraged.

“Where he potentially could have gotten into trouble would have been to have a federal appellate court ruling that there’s a constitutional right to same sex marriage and for him to be kind on the wrong side of that,” Socarides said.

“There is good and bad in this,” said one prominent gay rights activist, who asked not to be named. “The bad part is there is no compelling reason for the president to speak up before the election.”