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Vietnam veteran, Romney engage in exchange over gay marriage

By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vietnam veteran Bob Garon waited more than two hours at a Manchester diner Monday to get Mitt Romney’s views on the proposed repeal of New Hampshire’s law permitting gay marriage, but did not like what he heard.

Noticing Garon’s black Vietnam veteran cap, Romney sat down beside him and tried to strike up a conversation about his military service as the media crowded around.

“I have a question for you,” Garon said, cutting off the former Massachusetts governor. “New Hampshire has some legislation kicking around about the repeal of same-sex marriage (law). … All I need is a yes or a no.”

Romney told Garon that because of his view that “marriage is between a man and woman,” he supported efforts to repeal the law.

“Mmmm-hmm, OK, that means that if you’re in the White House, you will not support any form of legislation that would change that so that servicemen will be entitled to benefits like a man and a woman?” Garon asked. “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 (who) has devoted his time and effort to his country (gets). You just don’t support equality in terms of same-sex marriage?”

Garon, 63, is married to another man.

“I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” Romney repeated. “The Defense of Marriage Act that exists in Washington today defines benefits, whether for veterans or nonveterans, as between married spouses and, for me, that’s a man and a woman. And we apparently disagree on that.”

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

“Well, no,” Romney said, and the two began to talk over each other.

“Governor,” an aide interrupted, “we’ve got to get on with Fox News right now.”

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

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

Garon, an independent who leans Democratic, told reporters he was offended.

“I went and I fought for my country. I did my thing,” said Garon, who served in the Army in the mid-1960s. “I think my spouse should be entitled to the same entitlements that (I’d have) if I was married to a woman. What the hell is the difference?”

©2011 the Los Angeles Times

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