Isolated Horizons have played an important role in gravitational physics, from characterization of the endpoint of black hole mergers to black hole entropy. With an eye towards a canonical formulation we consider general relativity in first order form. We focus on two issues: i) The role of the internal gauge freedom in consistent formulations of the action principle, and ii) the role a 3+1 decomposition has in the allowed internal gauge. We clarify how the requirement of well posed variational principles compatible with general weakly isolated horizons (WIHs) does lead to a partial gauge fixing in the first order descriptions used previously in the literature. We consider the Palatini action together with the Holst extension, with and without boundary terms at the horizon. We show that, for the complete configuration space --with no gauge fixing--, the Palatini action is differentiable without additional surface terms at the WIH boundary, but the more general Holst action is not. A surface term at the horizon --that renders the action for asymptotically flat configurations differentiable-- makes the Holst action differentiable, but only if one restricts configuration space and partially reduces the internal Lorentz gauge. For the second issue, we show that upon performing a 3+1 decomposition and imposing the time gauge, there is a further gauge reduction of the Hamiltonian theory in terms of Ashtekar-Barbero variables to a $U(1)$-gauge theory on the horizon. We show that even when the Holst action is differentiable without additional surface terms or any gauge fixing for Type I spherically symmetric (strongly) isolated horizons --and a preferred foliation--, this result does not go through for more general isolated or weakly isolated horizons. Our results represent the first comprehensive study of these issues and clarify some contradictory statements found in the literature.

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