VP Debate: Where Was the Gay-Marriage Question?


While Martha Raddatz was masterful last night actually moderating a genuine and thoughtful debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, she failed to pose a key question to the contenders: What is your view on same-sex marriage?

Some will say, well, there are a long list of issues she had to get in the mix -- Afghanistan, the Libya debacle, abortion a few times, the economy, Medicare -- and that is true. But the issue of gay marriage is one that matters in this election, and it was not mentioned at all in either the first presidential debate or the standoff between Biden and Ryan.

Biden was the person who kicked open the door on this subject in this election by stating he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriages. For a couple of days at least, the public divide between Obama and Biden was wider than on any other issue since they had been in office -- a greater chasm between them than on Afghanistan policy where their differences were known but sewn together as a process leading to a conclusion everyone supported. 

Many argued at the time that Obama coming out days after Biden in support of gay marriage would cost him North Carolina. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have decidedly different views on the subject and oppose same-sex marriage, and even civil unions.

With gay marriage is being considered this season on state ballots across the United States -- and with the man who played a star role in kicking the civil-rights battle forward sitting on stage in Danville -- Raddatz should have queried them publicly on the movement broadening traditional marriage.

The final presidential debate, moderated by Bob Schieffer, will focus on foreign policy and international security, so unless he asks how gay soldiers and Marines are doing fulfilling their SEAL team duties, the question won't come up then. That leaves it to the citizens gathered on October 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, for a town-hall debate to do what Jim Lehrer and Raddatz did not manage to do and pose this question. (CNN's Candy Crowley will moderate.)

Many of the divisions between Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden on national security and the economy are overstated. They are both pretending at the moment to be more hawkish on China than they really are. As Ryan said last night, core national interests and assessment of the unique circumstances of every conflict in the Middle East would guide a Romney White House's decision to deploy force -- which is exactly the position of the Obama White House.

But on gay marriage, there are substantial differences, and America should learn more about the rationale each side has for their positions.

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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