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Romney defends same-sex marriage stance to gay veteran

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) talks to Vietnam War veteran Bob Garon at Chez Vachon Restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire December 12, 2011. Garon, who says he is gay, asked Romney about the Defense of Marriage Act. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

Brian Snyder/REUTERS

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, talked to Vietnam veteran Bob Garon at Chez Vachon Restaurant in Manchester, N.H., today. Garon, who is gay, asked Romney about his support for New Hampshire’s same sex marriage law.

MANCHESTER, NH – It started out as a seemingly safe situation. Mitt Romney, working a friendly room at a the Chez Vachon diner here, approached an older man wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap and sidled up next to him.

After some friendly banter about their ages, Bob Garon asked the former Massachusetts governor whether he supports repealing New Hampshire’s same sex marriage law.

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Romney said he did, saying, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s my view.”

With that, it started to become clear that a routine campaign conversation could become hostile. Though Romney had no reason to know it, Garon – a 63-year-old from Epsom, N.H. -- was sitting at the table with his husband.

Garon challenged Romney, saying, “If two men get married, apparently a veteran’s spouse would not be entitled to any burial benefits or medical benefits or anything that the serviceman has devoted his time and effort to his country, and you just don’t support equality in terms of same-sex marriage?”

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Romney reiterated his support for the Defense of Marriage Act, and added, “And we apparently disagree.”

“It’s good to know how you feel,” Garon said. “That you do not believe that everyone is entitled to their constitutional rights.”

“No, actually, I think at the time the Constitution was written it was pretty clear that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Romney replied. “And I don’t believe the Supreme Court has changed that.”

With that, a Romney aide interrupted, saying, “Governor, we’ve got to get on with Fox News right now.”

“Oh,” said Garon. “I guess the question was too hot.”

“No, I gave you the answer,” Romney said.

“You did,” Garon said. “And I appreciate your answer. And you know, I also learned something and New Hampshire is right. You have to look a man in the eye to get a good answer, and you know what, Governor, good luck.”

“Thank you, appreciate it,” Romney said. “Have a good day to you, sir.”

“You’re going to need it,” Garon replied.

“You are right about that,” Romney said as he left the table, and a group of reporters crowded around Garon.

Garon said he was gay, and that he married his partner -- Bob Lemire – in June. He said he came to the diner – where he comes often for breakfast – undecided about Romney. He left decidedly disappointed.

“I’m totally convinced today that he’s not going to be my president at least in my book,” Garon said. “At least Obama will entertain the idea. This man is ‘No way, Jose.’ Well, take that, ‘No way, Jose’ back to Massachusetts.”

Garon said he was a Democrat most of his life, but recently became an unenrolled voter. He’s unsure whether he’ll vote in the Republican primary, saying “The only one who tickles my fancy is Ron Paul” but “his age is a little on the rickety side.”

“The guy ain’t going to make it,” he said of Romney. “He is not going to make it…You can’t trust him. I just saw it in his eyes. I judge a man by his eyes.”

When asked whether there was anything he agreed with Romney on, he said there was. But even that was not in the Romney talking points.

“I kind of liked his health care plan in Massachusetts,” he said.

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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