THE DEBATE AND FRIVOLOUS ISSUES: Although I found the questions and answers on marriage equality last night to be very interesting (particularly Bill Richardson's shrewd answer that he'd get the lesbian couple from Brooklyn "everything I think is politically feasible" thus hinting that he has no problem with full marriage equality but avoiding taking the political risk of saying so outright), I thought all the time spent on it was sort of a waste. Of all the important issues facing the next president, gay marriage simply isn't one of them. That's not to say it isn't an important issue. I think full marriage equality is a crucial civil right that no one should be denied. But since I've been following its progression I'm well aware of the fact that marriage laws are set by the states, and the conflicts between state laws will mostly be adjudicated in the courts. The one major national proposal on gay marriage is a constitutional amendment to ban it which stands no chance of passing, wouldn't be supported by any of the Democrats running for president, and the president has no power to vote for or against anyway.
So why is it that so many debates in the last couple elections, both in the primaries and the general have featured questions about this? My best answer is that it fits broadly into the characterological preference of the mainstream media. They ask about gay marriage for the same reason they ask Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama how they respond to inane allegations that they aren't feminine enough or black enough, respectively. It's because they're more fun to ask, and because it allows the media to create supposedly non-ideological narratives about the candidates. I'd rather see more questions on how the candidates would actually govern the massive federal bureaucracy, but maybe I'm not the typical voter.