CONCORD, N.H. -- On the day after the third Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney is keeping a full New Hampshire schedule -- a breakfast in Bedford, a factory tour in Hudson, a high school address in Concord, a town hall meeting in Manchester, and then a state GOP gala dinner Wednesday night.
The schedule is worked out to the minute. And he has been keeping to it so far. But he has no way of controlling voters, who ask him questions at each event. At the Concord High School this afternoon, he was confronted on the issue of same-sex marriage.
It all started when a student went to the microphone to ask what he thought of gay marriage. "My view is that marriage is primarily an institution for the development and nurturing of children," Romney said. "And therefore I would restrict marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman. And if gay people want to live together and enter into contracts with each other, and so forth, that is their right within this free country.
"Good answer," said the mop-haired high school student, who walked back to his seat.
Then Cynthia Fish, a 29-year-old substitute teacher, took the microphone. "My question is also about gay marriage," she said. "I am a gay woman and I have children, and your point that you just made, it sort of invalidates my family. And out of all due respect, sir, I wish that you could explain to me more why if we are sending our troops over to fight for liberty and justice for all throughout this [world], why not for me, why not for my family?"
"When did you begin your family?" Romney asked.
"Three years ago, actually."
"Well, wonderful," Romney said. "I'm delighted that you have a good family and that you are happy with your family. And that is wonderful. That's the American way, and you have the right to do that. And I think that's certainly within your right, and that's the nature of America. People can live their lives as they choose. And children can be a great source of joy, as you know. And I welcome that. But I also think that marriage, as an institution, if you look at society as a whole, that marriage is an institution which is assigned to bring a man and a woman together to raise a child, and that the ideal setting for society at large is when there is a male and female associated with the development and nurturing of a child."
Romney went on to explain that there are many other acceptable situations in which to raise a child, including single parenthood that results from divorce. "That's not saying that these other forms of raising a family aren't valid," he continued. "For instance, we don't call a single person married, because marriage is actually a relationship between a man and a woman, by definition. And there are other ways we raise kids, and that's fine -- single moms, grandparents raising kids, gay couples raising kids. That's the American way to have people have their freedom of choice. But I believe that as a society we want to encourage a man and a woman to get married as the ideal setting, recognizing that the other options are available to us. It's not intended to do anything other than to recognize that that is the best setting we know of since the beginning of recorded history for developing and nurturing the children of the next generation."
On June 1, New Hampshire became the fourth state in the nation to legalize "civil unions" for gay couples. The other states are Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey. Massachusetts, where Romney was governor until 2006, is the only state that has legalized same-sex marriage. Romney supports both state and federal constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage.