'Gay veteran confronts Romney on marriage, service benefits'

Last modified: 12/13/2011 12:00:00 AM
It’s an iconic image: Mitt Romney, haloed by cameras and microphones, shaking hands with a flannel-clad man over a cup of coffee. But the conversation that unfolded in that crowded diner booth yesterday morning went far beyond polite small talk between a voter and a potential president.

The man in the flannel shirt, Bob Garon, is gay and, according to what he later told reporters, served in Vietnam. He was dining at Chez Vachon with his husband of six months, Bob Lemire. Garon and Lemire eat at the restaurant almost daily, according to the AP, and didn’t plan on interacting with Romney until he stopped to inquire about Garon’s hat, which identified him as a veteran. Garon, however, wasn’t interested in telling war stories.

Instead, he asked Romney if he supported a repeal of the New Hampshire law that legalized gay marriage. Romney, according to the Associated Press, said he favors repealing the law because marriage is between a man and a woman. Garon went on to ask if Romney would support legislation that would extend military service benefits to gay couples. Romney said no.

“Okay, that means if you were in the White House, you would not support any form of legislation that would change that so a serviceman would be entitled to any benefits like a man and a woman?” the AP reports Garon asking. “A veteran and a 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?”

Romney responded that the Defense of Marriage Act “defines benefits, whether for veterans or non-veterans as between married spouses and for me that's a man and a woman. We apparently disagree on that.”

Garon later expressed his frustration with Romney’s stance to ABC News.

“I went and fought for my country and I think my spouse should be entitled to the same [benefits as they would] if I were married to a woman,” he said. “What the hell is the difference?”

Romney was at the diner to accept an endorsement from Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, so the media throng was a thick as the syrup on the pancakes. Within hours, the conversation was on political blogs around the world.

Garon, according to the AP, isn’t registered with either political party and is unsure if he’ll vote in the Jan. 10 Republican primary. If Garon does vote, there’s little chance it will be for Romney.

“You can’t trust him,” Garon told the press. “I saw it in his eyes.”

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