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Mitt Romney Supports 'Partnership Agreements,' Not Marriage, For Gay Couples

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HOPKINTON, N.H. -- At his second town hall event during a swing through New Hampshire on Monday, Mitt Romney was peppered with questions about same-sex marriage and funding for AIDS research and prevention efforts. The topics aren't exactly typical of the Granite State, and as the former Massachusetts Governor was challenged, again and again, as to whether he would continue current funding levels or support marriage equality, it became all too clear that he wanted to move on to something else.

At one point, a student in the crowd chimed in to note that she was raised by her mother and grandmother and found the arrangement quite fine, even if it wasn't Romney's preferred setting for raising a child -- a two-parent household made up of a mother and a father.

"I can say look, there are a lot of folks who are raised by one parent, through divorce through death or through having a child out of wedlock," Romney replied. "But my view is a society recognizes that the ideal setting for raising a child is when you have the benefit of two people working together and where one is male and one is female. I happen to believe that and that's the reason that I think as a society we say, 'You know what? We are going to call marriage what it has been called for 6,000 years.'"

So why not support civil unions? "What I would support is letting people who are of the same gender form, if you will, partnership agreements," he replied. "If they want to have a partnership with someone else and have, as a result of that, such things as hospital visitation rights and similar benefits of that nature."

The distinction between "partnership agreements" and civil unions is vague, in part because they resemble one another, in some ways, on the surface. But there are legal differences -- and certainly rhetorical ones. When Romney was governor of Massachusetts he used terms like "partnership agreements" to appear as sympathetic and sensitive to gay couples, even as he pushed back against efforts to legalize civil unions in the state.

Much of the country may have grown more accepting of same-sex marriage since then, but many conservatives haven't. And as Romney kept beating back attempts to pin him down, there were audible groans from the audience at the Hopkinton Town Hall. After the event was over the Huffington Post talked to the student who had asked Romney about his definition of an ideal household.

"I was seething," Caitlynn Field said of Romney's answer. "I didn't want my disdain to be apparent on my face."

"His answer was a little odd because I grew up with two women as parents," she continued. "I didn't grow up with gay parents. But it was still two women."

Field is not from New Hampshire. She was bussed in, along with roughly 50 to 60 other students, from neighboring St. Michael's College in Vermont, where she is a freshman.

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