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Anthony D. Romero Headshot

The Debates and Our Lonely Constitution

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Six hours of election debates are now over. Six hours of national discourse fundamental to our democracy, yet our Constitution was mentioned only once -- by Mitt Romney. Even then, it was referenced as a rhetorical mantelpiece, not as a point of debate.

Our Constitution deserves more and so do the voters.

The Constitution and the rights it guarantees remain as relevant today as when the document was signed 225 years ago. As important as jobs, energy and foreign policy, our Constitution is just as important even if it is not in the headlines every day.

Here's what we did and didn't learn on some key constitutional issues.

Illegal Drone Strikes -- The president's ability to order the killing of people overseas -- including American citizens -- without a trial or hearing of any sort went unchallenged in Monday night's debate. Romney said he supported drone strikes and President Obama just pivoted away.

LGBT Equality -- Millions of Americans are denied fundamental rights simply because of who they are. The ability to marry and to have protection from job discrimination was ignored during the debates.

Immigration -- We know that Romney "likes immigrants," but at the debates he skirted around the fact that he would require millions of young people to "self-deport," despite their full integration into our communities and their significant contributions to the nation.

Women's Rights -- While the Lilly Ledbetter Act and access to contraception came up in the town hall debate, a fuller conversation about Roe v. Wade and its perilous place in a Supreme Court up for grabs never occurred. Vice-presidential candidates Paul Ryan and Joe Biden did directly answer an abortion question from moderator Martha Raddatz, illuminating the views of candidates who would be a heartbeat from the presidency.

Religious Freedom -- We heard Romney say he believes "we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country." But that's all we heard -- nothing about how he would ensure that. Obama uttered the word "religious" when talking about other nations and their need for "religious tolerance." A fuller conversation was in order.

Since the candidates and the debate moderators decided not to put the full breadth of constitutional issues at the fore of the national conversation, we will.

From now until the end of the election, ACLU Liberty Watch, our presidential watchdog campaign, will highlight a different constitutional issue every day, including the candidates' respective positions on each one. You can follow us here.

The Constitution can't get lost among the issues of the moment because it is the enduring power of the Constitution that allows us to debate those issues.