MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney probably expected a different scenario in a Manchester diner on Monday when he tucked into a booth to make small talk with an older man wearing a “Vietnam Vet” baseball cap.
Romney has been vocal in opposing cuts to U.S. military spending, and chatting up a veteran would seem like an easy warm-up to a day on the campaign trail.
But military spending wasn’t on the mind of Bob Garon, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Garon is gay, and a newlywed. He was eating at the Chez Vachon diner, as he does most days, with his husband, Bob Lemire, 73. The couple — whom friends sometimes call ‘Bob One’ and ‘Bob Two’ — married in June after 15 years together.
Same sex marriage became legal in New Hampshire in 2010, but the state’s Republican-controlled legislature has moved toward repealing the law.
When Romney sat down next to Garon, the Epson resident asked him, “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?”
Romney reiterated his support for the Defense of Marriage Act. “And we apparently disagree,” he added.
“It’s good to know how you feel,” Garon said. “That you do not believe that everyone is entitled to their constitutional rights.”
After more sparring Romney was whisked away for a television interview, leaving Garon to hold court.
“We got married here, where it’s legal. Unless Mitt Romney gets elected,” Garon told reporters. “I don’t think his beliefs should dictate our Constitution. It’s not his choice, it’s my choice.”
“I went and fought for my country and I think my spouse should be entitled to the same as they would if I were married to a woman,” he said. “What the hell is the difference?”
Garon told reporters he thought Romney would fail on his quest for the White House. “The guy ain’t going to make it,” Garon said of Romney. “You can’t trust him. I just saw it in his eyes.”
“At least (President Barack) Obama will entertain the idea,” said Garon. “This man is ‘No way, Jose.’ Well, take that, ‘No way, Jose’ back to Massachusetts.”
Garon’s military service came decades before the 1993 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual service members, but barred openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from military service.
The law was ended by Obama in September 2011, allowing gays to serve openly in the U.S. military.
Editing by Jerry Norton