Well, that’s awkward

I bet you $10,000 that Mitt Romney didn’t see this coming:

Mitt Romney, while  touring the Chez Vachon restaurant in Manchester, sat down at a table with two older men, one of whom was wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat.

Bob Garon, 63, of Epsom, N.H., asked Romney if he, as president would seek to overturn New Hampshire’s law legalizing gay marriage. Romney gave his standard response affirming his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Garon, who is gay and was seated with his husband, Bob Lemire, then said to Romney: “It’s good to know how you feel, that you do not believe everyone is entitled to their constitutional rights.”

Romney replied: “Actually, I think at the time the Constitution was written marriage was between a man and a woman and I don’t believe the Supreme Court has changed that.”

Garon, a political independent later, told reporters he was unimpressed with Romney.

“The guy ain’t going to make it,” he said after the exchange. “You can’t trust him. I can see it in his eyes.”

Garon said he was married in June. “In New Hampshire, where it’s legal. Unless Mitt Romney gets elected.”

I’m sure Romney’s logic went something like “Two older veterans?! What a great photo-op, let me sit down with these fine conservative gentlemen!” And then his mind was blown when stereotypes were shattered. I know this is hard for conservatives to understand, but not all gay people wear sequins and spend their day dancing to Lady Gaga and having orgies (as fun as that is). Some like to have a peaceful breakfast without bigoted politicians ruining their meal.

And I love his twisted logic about how what was illegal or legal at the time the Constitution was written somehow determines its legality today. I wonder how he copes with the idea that when the Constitution was written, Mormonism didn’t even exist.


  1. says

    “I wonder how he copes with the idea that when the Constitution was written, Mormonism didn’t even exist.”

    Dude! I was thinking this too! That and, “when the constitution was written, women were basically property.” …

  2. says

    Love the fact that he ran into an older gay couple. Fundies tend to paint gays as young sinners in the prime of their lives, not thinking about the future. It’s nice that he ran into an example of love lasting into later life (even though his brain will find a way to twist it, I’m sure).

  3. Pramod says

    Serious question: What’s the fixation Americans have with the constitution? I mean, it’s a document written by a bunch of privileged white men more than three centuries ago. Lots an lots of things are different now and the writers of the constitution were not infallible. Further, most Americans alive today didn’t choose to become American citizens.

    My point is, it’s important to take a look at the how the world is today and make decisions based on that. If some of these decisions contradict the constitution, that’s fine. Even if the constitution said that gay marriage is illegal, that doesn’t make gay marriage wrong.

  4. says

    Well, the fixation we have is that it’s the basis for our entire system of government. People tend to take that sort of thing seriously. Yes, it was written by “privileged white men more than three centuries ago”. Those same guys are generally acknowledged to have come up with some really, really good ideas. Clearly there were some bad ideas as well, but they’ve been generally dealt with pretty well via amendments.

    The problem is that politicians tend to invoke the Constitution in completely inappropriate situations. It’s quite clear that some of them have never actually read it, much less understood it. The Constitution says nothing at all about marriage. It does, however, say a lot about individual rights. That being the case, if Perry wants to present himself as a strict Constitutionalist, he’s not going to find support for his position in it.

  5. Pramod says

    My point is only that it’s not an infallible document. A lot of the time I hear people say, “this is goes against the constitution”, as if that’s the end of the discussion. This will lead to trouble in the long run.

  6. says

    Technically, it is the end of the discussion at that point. If something is unconstitutional, then by definition it’s illegal.

    That doesn’t mean that the Constitution can’t be changed – it has, many times. Plus, the interpretation of particular elements can be clarified or modified by the appropriate governmental authority.

    Don’t get hung up on people who say that something is or isn’t Constitutional. Phrases like that are thrown around as often as “But it’s in the Bible, so it must be so”, with approximately the same level of authority.

    Apropos of nothing: I have found that at least 75% of the time that someone tells me they’re justifying something “from the Bible”, they’re actually quoting something from Shakespeare.

  7. joviality says

    Surely Jen meant to write, “…Mormonism had yet to be revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith…”

    Oh wait.


  8. says

    The fact that religious people like Romney can come face-to-face with families like that and still maintain their bigotry tells you all you need to know about the religious mindset.

  9. alexstrinka says

    “I wonder how he copes with the idea that when the Constitution was written, Mormonism didn’t even exist.”

    I don’t see how that’s relevant, since the constitution doesn’t specifically mention any religion. It just says that people are free to practice religion however they want, so being Mormon was constitutional before Mormonism existed.

    Which is not to say that the legality of something when the constitution was written should determine its legality today, but davery’s point about slavery is a better rebuttal to that.

  10. schism says

    I’m sure Romney’s logic went something like “Two older veterans?! What a great photo-op, let me sit down with these fine conservative gentlemen!” And then his mind was blown when stereotypes were shattered.

    Or, more realistically, Romney just told his press agents (or whatever politicians have) to vet (*snort*) his photo ops better.

  11. sunnydale75 says

    I do hope one day that marriage is an option for any consenting adults regardless of who they sleep with (I live in Florida and it’s not exactly the most progressive state), but I don’t think marriage is a constitutional right (though I can see an argument to be made in favor of it). I’d like to meet a guy one day and get married, but I don’t believe I have a “right” to get married. Is marriage a right? A privilege? A commitment? All of the above? Something else?


  12. sunnydale75 says

    >I know this is hard for conservatives to understand, but not all gay people wear sequins and spend their day dancing to Lady Gaga and having orgies (as fun as that is). <

    -I've only been in one orgy before, and it was "eh". Can't see myself doing that again, but anything is possible. I've never worn sequins and still can't fathom why some gay men want to dress as women (anytime I begin to wonder, I shrug my shoulders and think "my preferences have no bearing on the choices of others"). Given this economy I haven't spent a day dancing in a while, but in times past, it was fun to do.
    I've found that some people have an idea of what gay people are like, but said idea isn't informed by actual interaction, but some abstract idea. When you mix that idea with the "gay sex is icky" mentality (don't like it? don't engage in it), I think some people automatically condemn gays.

    Tony (suddenly I find myself picturing Rick Perry in sequins, dancing to Lady Gaga in an all male orgy; now THAT is icky)

  13. says

    Marriage isn’t specifically a right mentioned in the Constitution along the lines of speech, religious exercise, or bearing guns. Equal protection of the law is mentioned in the Constitution. I don’t see how allowing some people to get married and others not is equal protection of anything under anything.

    Also, those two guys are a boatload of awesome.

  14. PHS Philip says

    For what it’s worth (not that it really makes it any better), I strongly doubt that Romney is at all bigoted against gays. Everything he does indicates opportunism, rather than adherence to a political philosophy or ideology. If he thought it’d get him the presidency more easily, he’d be pushing labor organization, gay rights, and single payer healthcare. His mind wasn’t blown or anything, he was just inconvenienced.

  15. says

    In a sense, the fact that it’s not infallible is written into it. That’s what the Amendment system is for: to correct mistakes, and adjust as needed to unanticipated problems. I’m not sure how many people actually think about that when discussing Constitutional issues.

    But generally, if someone says “that’s unconstitutional,” and they’re accurate, then legally, that’s the end of it, unless you can get an Amendment to change it (3/5ths Compromise, for example, or the voting age, or who’s eligible to vote, etc). As richmulvey already said.

  16. benjaminsa says

    I agree, American politics has become a carefully constructed commercial enterprise where the candidate is the product. Who knows what Romney actually thinks. If you want an idea about his politics look at his funding, it is a far better predictor of policy.

  17. Tom Singer says

    Well, as long as we’re being accurate, the constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788, so to 1 decimal place, it’s 2.2 centuries old.

  18. Stuartvo says

    shrug my shoulders and think “my preferences have no bearing on the choices of others”

    Exactly! I can’t understand why anyone would willingly eat frogs’ legs or snails, but it would be ridiculous for me to declare jihad on French cuisine!

    But I guess nothing is ridiculous for politics these days…

  19. says

    Exactly. BTW, Jefferson was of the opinion that the constitution should be re-written by every generation in order to meet the needs of an ever-changing society.

  20. sc_40d54bda01e4a1df637b7175187862f4 says

    I doubt his mind was blown. More likely it was just further compartmentalized…

  21. Chad says

    The most disturbing part is that he seems to believe that a thing is prohibited until the state grants one permission. Gays are not even mentioned in the constitution. They are people and shouldn’t be required to get “permission” to marry. Someday school children will look back on this time and see these men little better than slave holders.

  22. says

    It should be completely irrelevant, what couples do or don’t do, to governance. Not anyone elses business but their own. Remove the need for government-issued marriage licenses, and the problem is solved.

    Yet another example of excessive government being the root of the problem.

  23. Velociraptor says

    This may not be the right thresd to pose this question, but I’ll try it anyway:

    Caveat: I state categorically that gays and lesbians are being denied equal protection under the law when their marriages are not recognized by the state. To me, the issue of gay marriage is a rather simple Civil Rights issue that should be cut-and-dried. We heard the same objections from the same ideology in regards to interracial marriage and other Civil Rights issues from the same side of the political aisle throughout our history, and the bottom line is that I feel that gays and lesbians have the inherant right to marry and have their relationships protected by force of law. Gay and lesbian marriages do not effect mine whatsoever.

    That being said, my question is this: Does it really matter, in the end, what the marriage/civil union/whatever is called, as long as the legal protections are the same?

  24. says

    My first thought was “OK, so they can be separate but equal”?

    Yeah, I know, not quite the same thing.

    But language is powerful. If you give one thing – especially something as societally contentious as gay marriage – two names, then invariably they will have different connotations, and one will be seen as “lesser” than the other.

    “Marriage” is a perfectly reasonable term for both hetero and gay unions. It conveys the essence of the thing through long usage.

    Granted, it currently has religious connotations that some would find offensive. But you’ll never be able to please everyone.

    Personally, I don’t care what it’s called. But there should be one legal term for it, regardless of who the participants are.

  25. Tom Singer says

    Do you support getting rid of all the other legal rights and responsibilities conferred by getting married? A marriage license is essentially a contract. If you get rid of that, that means you don’t have next of kin status for medical decisions, inheriting property, or receiving Social Security benefits, and you take away the responsibility to report conflicts of interest or pay alimony, for example.

    People tend to pair up and mingle assets. Our society isn’t set up in such a way that it makes sense for government out of the marriage business. Or at least, the civil union business.

  26. Reverse Polarity says

    Yes, it matters.

    (1) Legally, we created just such a ‘separate but equal’ thing in WA state. Domestic partners in WA are equal in every way to married persons under state law. My partner and I are registered domestic partners. And that is super, as long as we don’t ever step beyond the state boundaries. If we visit family in other states, we revert to becoming legal strangers again as soon as we cross the state line. We are legal strangers if we visit Hawaii for vacation, or even if we visit Canada, where gay marriage is legal. It also has no effect on all the federal and tax laws that are relevant to marriage. It took years of massive changes to the state’s laws to achieve what limited rights we have. It would be much easier to simply include gays in the existing legal structure that is built around the legal civil definition of marriage. If we were legally ‘married’, then our marriage would be recognized anywhere that marriage is legal.

    (2) Beyond the legal issue, ‘marriage’ is a social construct that has meaning. Being a registered domestic partner just doesn’t have the same social meaning in the eyes of the public. It is undeniably a second class status. And after being with my partner for more than 25 years now, I’m getting really fucking tired of a second class label. Even if we never leave the state and we receive most of the same legal rights as straight married couples, we are being given a separate label that is different and less valid in most people’s eyes than the label of marriage. Our culture has invested a great deal of meaning in the label of marriage, and as long as I am being denied the use of that label, I am forever a second class citizen within our culture.

  27. Azkyroth says

    And I love his twisted logic about how what was illegal or legal at the time the Constitution was written somehow determines its legality today.

    I suppose if one or more of those gentlemen were black, the article would have mentioned it…

  28. Makoto says

    I love how “strict constitutionalists” always fall back on the “when it was written” or “what the founding fathers intended” statements when pressed on areas like this, yet crow for state’s rights against “federal government overreach” and yell about “activist judges” and such.

    And by love I mean it makes me dizzy trying to follow their logic train. If you’re for the constitution as it was written (with or without amendments), it says nothing about homo- or hetero-sexual marriage. If you’re for it “as the framers intended” / “when it was written”, then there are plenty of letters we can cite with examples like “it should be rewritten every generation or so” to adapt to the changing world.

  29. says

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says marriage is a right:

    Article 16

    (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

  30. Tom Singer says

    It’s pretty easy to argue that, in the absence of an explicit definition of marriage, and given that this was written in the 1940s, that the intent was 1 man and 1 woman. If you, for example, make an argument that there’s nothing there that explicitly says 1 man and 1 woman, the obvious counter is that there’s nothing there that explicitly forbids 1 man and 5 women. So, unless you believe that the UN was advocating that polygamy is a fundamental human right, you’re left to fall back on the common understanding of marriage.

    Also, the declaration itself has no legal weight, even on the countries that formally adopted it. (Although Wikipedia says that it has been incorporated into other things which do carry legal weight.)

    Please note – I do support gay marriage. I’m just pointing out that this UN declaration does not appear to include it among fundamental human rights.

  31. michaelswanson says

    It’s a humorous story, but one that ultimately won’t make any difference to an ass like Romney. He’ll just twist the momentary respect he had for a veteran and patriot into, “See how far and wide the evils of homosexuality have spread! Only Jesus Smith, Inc.* can save us now!”

    *Corporations are saviors, too, my friend.

  32. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Indeed. In the Politico comments, I already saw one guy speculating that those men were deceitful gay activists, and the gentleman in question was only posing as a Vietnam vet. The cognitive dissonance is deafening…

  33. says

    The purpose of civil unions is specifically to create a permanent second-class status by statute. The only reason not to use the word marriage is because your very intent is to make gay unions second-class.

    It’s a way of saying “look, this is the best we’re going to let you have, now shut up and be grateful before we change our minds altogether.”

  34. says

    Exactly! That’s why the government has no business being in the marriage business. Marriage is a religious/spiritual concept and should not dictate law. All of what are now termed legal marriages should be renamed civil unions, and be granted to any two persons of legal age.

  35. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Thank you! It would have been excellent to have him ask Romney too point out specifically where it says what he claims it says about marriage. It would have been awesome to have on film Romney’s total failure to respond.

  36. Vicki says

    It might not matter if it was called the same thing for everyone, everywhere. If every heterosexual marriage in the United States was transformed into a civil union, and all U.S. laws that now grant rights based on marriage were changed to say “civil union,” it might not be discriminatory.

    This seems extremely unlikely. The people who want separate terms are fighting because they want marriage to be reserved for heterosexuals (and some of them would like religious restrictions other than “it must be between two people of different genders”). Let them come up with a different word for their religious rite, if they want. Marriage is older than Christianity, and a lot of laws (statute and case law) take it for granted.

  37. Randomfactor says

    Again, so long as such things as joint tax returns and the multi-thousand references to married couples are similtaneously rewritten out of the law, it would work. That’s about a ten-year program for the initial phase, maybe another twenty to work the kinks out after that.

    Or you could call every civil union a marriage and knock off for lunch.

  38. Jurjen S. says

    Why not get the church out of marriage instead? There’s historical precedent in the US: in the New England colonies, marriage was a purely civil contract, performed by a judge, not a clergyman. If they feel the need to have their own pair bonding rituals and mores, they can call it “narriage” or something.

  39. Numenaster says

    This reminds me of the conversation I had recently with a Catholic struggling to deal with the concept of gay marriage. He took the position that gay people in the US should be content with living together with their chosen partner without being hassled for it, since that’s such a big change (in the US) from a few decades ago. I could have pointed out that such tolerance is hardly universal, but instead replied “So, we should be grateful it’s not as bad as it could be?” He didn’t have an answer to that one. I think he’s just having trouble catching up with the pace of change (he’s in his fifties).

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