When Mr. Obama was elected, he pledged that one of his priorities would be to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The legislation, signed by President Clinton, defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal law. But once in office, Mr. Obama didn’t push for the repeal.
Instead, his administration announced through the Justice Department that it no longer would defend the constitutionality of the law in court cases.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama also has reminded audiences of his rescinding of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays. But in the debates, there was nary a mention of it.
In May, the president made headlines by announcing that he would support gay marriage, after opposing it earlier in his political career. But gay marriage, too, was absent from the debate discussions.
Still, a spokeswoman for a leading gay-rights group said the debates did cover issues that gay people care about, such as jobs.
“If you look at polling data on what LGBT people care about this election, then the debates did in fact address the critical issues on LGBT voters’ minds, including the economy, jobs and health care,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund.
Although DOMA and other gay-rights issues haven’t popped up, she said, “for voters who care about fairness and equality, the choice could not be more stark.”
No questions on pot
Then there is marijuana legalization.
The issue pops up regularly in the party primaries when the candidates have to get much closer to voters. When the White House opens for questions online, marijuana policy regularly gets the most votes for what people want to hear about.
It has been 24 years since someone even mentioned decriminalizing marijuana in a debate — and that was when George H.W. Bush said that kind of talk was a symbol of “a deterioration of values.”
The issue should have some salience this year. In 2008, Mr. Obama promised to stop federal raids on operations in states that have moved to decriminalize possession of the drug. But legalization advocates say the raids have continued.
“I think there’s a disconnect,” said Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, which is trying to recruit celebrities to push for legalization. “This is a mainstream majority-support issue, but politicians for some reason seem to still be stuck in the 1980s and they’re afraid of being attacked as soft on crime, soft on drugs.”
But in more than two decades of debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, no moderator has ever asked the question in a general election campaign.
“I think maybe a lot of journalists happen to be midnight tokers themselves and are afraid of maybe being found out,” Mr. Angell said. “The general conventional wisdom is this is not a serious issue, and I think they feel in bringing this up they’ll be looked askance by their colleagues.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at email@example.com.
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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