Tuesday nightâs Presidential Debate at Hofstra University at 6:00pm (Pacific) will be a Town Hall-style format where moderator Candy Crowley from CNN will facilitate â and hopefully follow up on â questions from undecided voters hand-picked from the surrounding Hempstead, Long Island area. Political pundits have been chiming in for days about what to watch out for and who needs to do what to win the debate â which has become immensely important after President Obamaâs lackluster performance in the first debate resulted in a significant rebound for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The best thing about the town hall format is its unpredictability. Surely the economy and jobs and Israel and Iran will be at the top of everyoneâs list in the debate centering on domestic and foreign issues. But New York is one of six states, with Washington DC, that have marriage equalityÂ Â and I hope one of those remaining undecided voters asks this question: Do you think civil marriage is a fundamental Constitutional right and if so, what do you think of that right for same sex couples being put up to a majority vote on a state ballot initiative?
We know Obama supports marriage equality â but he also thinks the definition of marriage is a state matter. Romney opposes marriage equality but signed the National Organization for Marriageâs pledge to push for a Federal Constitutional amendment to prohibit lesbian and gay couples equal marriage rights. The Obama administration opposes the so-called Defense of Marriage and wonât defend it in federal court, though the military still enforces the DOMA restrictions after the repeal of Donât Ask, Donât Tell. Meanwhile the Republicans under Speaker John Boehner have hit the cap of $1.5 million taxpayer dollarsÂ defending DOMA – losing five cases in federal court.
That support is being put to the test this Nov. 6 with four marriage initiatives on the ballot in Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota.Â Neither Obama nor Romney have made explicit statements about the initiatives â and would probably prefer not to, considering the quicksand of statesâ rights the answer would involve. But for advocates of equality and same sex couples who want the same fundamental rights automatically given heterosexuals at birth, it is no longer acceptable to hush up and be a second class citizen.Â Â A solid positive response from Obama would not doubt help muster his base and a more âmoderateâ response from Romney might chill his new friends in the Tea Party and Christian conservative movement.
Another so-called âsocialâ question that really relates to the economy: Do you think it is OK to refuse to hire or to fire someone â no matter how qualified – based only on their sexual orientation or gender identity?
Iâll have a more detailed story about the important ballot initiatives, as well as reaction to the debate, tomorrow.