‘Why Do You Want to Put Me Back in the Closet?’
A middle-aged gay man confronted Senator Marco Rubio here on Monday over his opposition to same-sex marriage, pointedly asking, “Why do you want to put me back in the closet?”
“I don’t,” Mr. Rubio replied. “You can live any way you want.”
The tense exchange inside the Puritan Backroom diner ended with Mr. Rubio walking away and the displeased voter calling him a “typical politician.”
Mr. Rubio, who is seeking to win over conservatives, is seldom asked about gay rights at his campaign stops. But courting voters in a crowded New Hampshire diner on the eve of the primary is an unpredictable business.
The voter, who identified himself as Timothy Kierstead, was seated at a table with his mother and his husband when Mr. Rubio walked up behind him, according to pool reports of the encounter. During a brief conversation, Mr. Kierstead, 50, told Mr. Rubio that he was married but complained that the senator’s position amounted to him declaring that “we don’t matter.”
Mr. Rubio, who was standing with his youngest son, Dominick, 8, by his side, gently disagreed. “No, I just believe marriage is between one man and one woman.”
“Well,” replied Mr. Kierstead, “that’s your belief.”
Mr. Rubio continued: “I think that’s what the law should be. And if you don’t agree you should have the law changed by a legislature.”
Mr. Kierstead said the law had already been changed, referring either to a Supreme Court ruling that has legalized same-sex marriage across the country or to state legislation in New Hampshire that did the same.
Mr. Rubio decided to conclude their conversation. “I respect your view,” he said, patting Mr. Kierstead on the shoulder and starting to walk away.
Credit Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. Kierstead was unsatisfied. “Typical politician,” he said loudly. “Walk away.”
In an interview afterward, Mr. Kierstead offered a portrait of his life: He owns a restaurant in Manchester, and he and his husband have three children. He is a registered independent and said he would cast his vote for a Democrat on Tuesday because Republicans did not support his right to marry.
“They want to take my rights away as a citizen of the United States,” said Kierstead said.
“Love is love,” he added. “People don’t choose who they are going to love.”
Mr. Kierstead said his mother and husband had approved of his confrontation with Mr. Rubio, for the most part. “He knew I wouldn’t shut up,” he said of his spouse.
Sexuality, it seems, was a recurring theme during Mr. Rubio’s visit to the diner. A different patron in the same restaurant, a 92-year-old woman, asked Mr. Rubio about the personal life of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“He’s a bachelor, right?” the woman asked.
“He is,” Mr. Rubio said.
Then she asked, “Is he gay?”
Mr. Rubio chuckled. “No,” he replied.