Vietnam Vet Challenges Romney On Gay Marriage

fromNHPR

Even in New Hampshire, old-fashioned retail campaigning is somewhat rare this election season. And an exchange Monday between GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a Vietnam veteran may only reinforce the pattern. While shaking hands in a Manchester diner this morning, the former Massachusetts governor asked the vet if he could sit down to talk for a few minutes. What Romney couldn't have predicted is that the veteran is gay — and had a simple question on gay marriage.

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Mitt Romney engaged in some old-fashioned retail campaigning today at a diner in Manchester, New Hampshire. He may be regretting it after a voter engaged the Republican presidential candidate in a conversation about gay rights.

New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers was there.

JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: From his Vietnam veteran baseball cap to his red, flannel shirt and cigarettes, Bob Garon must have looked promisingly conservative to Mitt Romney. So he asked to sit down at Garon's table at Chez Vachon and talk for a bit. Garon obliged. He had a question for Romney on his views on gay marriage, which is legal in New Hampshire

MITT ROMNEY: I believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.

ROGERS: Garon, who was eating at the crowded breakfast spot with his husband, Bob Lemire, pressed Romney for answers.

ROMNEY: And the Defense of Marriage Act that exists in Washington today defines benefits, whether for veterans or for non-veterans, as between married spouses. And for me, that's a man and a woman. And we apparently disagree on that, but I just wanted to...

BOB GARON: No. It's good to know how you feel...

ROMNEY: That's right.

GARON: ...that you do not believe that everyone is entitled to their constitutional rights.

ROMNEY: No, actually, I think...

GARON: I think your...

ROMNEY: ...at the time the Constitution was written, it was pretty clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I don't believe the Supreme Court has changed that.

ROGERS: A Romney staffer then moved in.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Governor, we got to get on with Fox News right now.

ROGERS: But Garon and Romney continued.

GARON: Oh, I guess the question was too hot.

ROMNEY: No, I gave you the answer.

GARON: You all have a good day, Governor.

ROMNEY: You said you had a yes or no answer. I gave you the answer.

GARON: You did. 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.

ROMNEY: Thank you, appreciate it. Have a good day to you, sir.

GARON: You're going to need it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: Yeah. Thank you. You are right about that.

ROGERS: Afterwards, Garon was surrounded by reporters. He said he was a registered independent, and served in Vietnam in 1967. Garon added that when he looked Romney in the eye, he didn't see a commander in chief.

GARON: Well, I was undecided. I'm totally convinced today that he's not going to be my president. At least, Obama will entertain the idea. This man is: No way, Jose. Well, take your no-way-Jose back to Massachusetts.

ROGERS: To other GOP hopefuls planning to stump at Chez Vachon, consider yourselves warned: Bob Garon says he eats breakfast there every day.

For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Concord, New Hampshire.

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