In a year and a half, Americans will elect a new president. What issues will be foremost in their minds? Allow me to set the table for you:
The U.S. economic recovery is anemic at best, with long-term joblessness still a major problem confronting millions of Americans. Income inequality has widened, and poverty has increased.
In the past six years, scandal has shaken the VA, the IRS, ATF, the Justice Department and most recently the DEA, which is why it's not surprising that Americans name "government" the most important problem facing the country today, according to Gallup.
Overseas, the Islamic State now holds huge swaths of Iraq and Syria, an area larger than many countries, and the group continues to recruit Westerners to join in its murderous rampage. Iran is emerging as a dominant power in the Middle East, and Russia is again bullying Eastern Europe.
And yet with all of this (and plenty more) in the background, some in the media believe the most pressing question to ask the 2016 Republican contenders and would-be contenders is: Would you attend a gay wedding?
If this were an innocent question, a normal reaction from someone vying to be the leader of the free world might be, "Huh?" But the question is far from guileless, and so the contenders have felt compelled to oblige.
Marco Rubio says he would, Scott Walker says he already has, Rick Perry says he probably would and Rick Santorum says he would not. Ted Cruz is thus far the only contender who has dared to suggest that there may be more important problems facing the nation than whether or not he graces a hypothetical gay couple with his presence.
As he is wont to do, Jon Stewart summed it up best: "This election is going to boil down to, Who do you trust to pick up the phone at 3 a.m. -- and RSVP to a gay wedding?"
What must our neighbors and friends overseas be thinking of us? We are the greatest superpower on the planet, and we're worried about whether or not our future president would show up at a gay wedding?
It's almost too ripe for mockery to take it seriously. Yet take it seriously we must, for a few important reasons.
As Ben Domenech has pointed out, implied in the question is the troubling belief that freedom of association should suddenly be conditional. "Conservatives and (most) libertarians believe people ought to be able to decide whether to freely associate with others themselves," he wrote in the Federalist. They should not be "dragooned."
I'm a conservative who supports gay marriage. I've been to gay weddings, and they were lovely. But I believe others should have the permission to be uncomfortable or unwilling -- which, incidentally, is not the same thing as bigoted.
The second problem is that the gay rights community isn't driving this line of questioning. The advocates I know don't think the next great achievement of equality will be getting a conservative presidential candidate to their wedding. Rather, the media are driving it, for their own reasons. Remember the rape-related comments that sank two Republican candidates for Senate in 2012? The media want more gaffes that they can use to generate controversy and mold it to fit established narratives.
Very well, but the most troubling part of this whole clown show is that it is so blithely hypocritical.
President Obama and the Democrats' presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, have attended countless events, brokered dozens of deals, and exchanged all sorts of sordid goods with state actors who lock away gay people, behead them and throw them off buildings.
In 2014, Obama held the first ever U.S.-Africa summit, where he welcomed some of the world's most homophobic dictators to the White House, rolling out a literal red carpet and posing for photos with tyrants likeGambia's Yahya Jammeh, who has vowed to "cut off the head" of homosexuals in his country, and Nigeria'sGoodluck Jonathan, who has jailed dozens of homosexuals in his country.
Hillary Clinton has accepted millions in donations from countries like Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death.
If Clinton can accept money from countries where gay people are stoned to death, and President Obama can open the White House to dictators who promise to cut off their heads, can't Rick Santorum recuse himself from attending a gay wedding?
It's time to get our priorities straight. My advice to the candidates: Don't dignify stupid questions with real answers. It's beneath the office you are seeking.