WASHINGTON - Here are the positions of President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney on social issues that may - or may not - play a role in the run-up to the November 6 election.
ABORTION and CONTRACEPTION
Mitt Romney: He wants to overturn "Roe v. Wade," the 1973 decision by the US Supreme Court that upholds a woman's right to an abortion. He supports a ban on abortion except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the life or health of the mother.
Romney wants an end to federal subsidies of family planning centers. He has also criticized Obama's health care reform law because it compelled employers, including religious institutions, to cover contraception costs for employees.
Barack Obama: the incumbent is an avid defender of women's rights and access to abortion, and believes that "a woman's health care choices are personal decisions, best made with her doctor - without interference from politicians."
Mitt Romney is opposed to same-sex marriage and civil unions, and supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
He opposed the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," which banned openly gay personnel from serving in the military, but announced he would not seek a return to the policy.
Barack Obama was the first US commander in chief to back the rights of homosexuals to marry. He said it was his personal belief, however, and noted that the decision was up to the states.
Capital punishment has rarely been addressed during the campaign, and neither candidate is proposing its abolition.
Mitt Romney: "I happen to believe that the death penalty tends to prevent some of the most heinous crimes," Romney said in July.
Barack Obama: Once opposed to executions, he too now supports the death penalty for the most "heinous" crimes, but believes it should only rarely be meted out.
Mitt Romney: He opposed the legalization of cannabis for federal medical reasons, which has occurred in several states including California.
Barack Obama: Like his rival, Obama is opposed to decriminalizing marijuana. The president has ordered federal agencies not to intervene against "medical" marijuana dispensaries, but managers have since complained of renewed repression.
Mitt Romney: He strictly interprets the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which enshrines the right of Americans to bear arms. He opposes any new federal legislation restricting the purchase of firearms, and has received the endorsement of the NRA, the powerful gun-rights lobby.
Barack Obama: The president has pledged respect for the Second Amendment, but supports a strengthening of background checks on gun purchasers.
Mitt Romney: He supports research on adult stem cells, but is opposed to research that raises ethical concerns, such as the "cloning of human embryos" for use in embryonic stem cell research.
Barack Obama: In his first months as president, he signed an executive order lifting a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Mitt Romney: The Republican nominee is a Mormon, and worked hard to earn support of evangelical Christians. He has protested attempts to, as he put it in August, "remove from the public domain any acknowledgement of God."
Romney prays every night before bed, and often notes in his campaign speeches that "our rights came from God" and not from government.
Barack Obama: A Christian who supports the separation of church and state, he has described "the principle of religious liberty (as) an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution." He also claims to seek religious guidance in his tasks as president.