Ohio’s Rob Portman is first GOP senator to support gay marriage

WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Thursday (March 14) announced he has reversed his longtime opposition to same-sex … Continued

WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Thursday (March 14) announced he has reversed his longtime opposition to same-sex marriage after reconsidering the issue because his 21-year-old son, Will, is gay.

Portman said his son, a junior at Yale University, told his wife, Jane, and him that he’s gay and “it was not a choice, it was who he is and that he had been that way since he could remember.”

“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman told reporters in an interview at his office.

The conversation the Portmans had with their son two years ago led him to evolve on the issue after he consulted clergy members, friends — including former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay — and the Bible.

“The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly the Golden Rule, and the fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue,” Portman said, adding that he feels that “in a way, this strengthens the institution of marriage.”

Portman, 57, said his son didn’t push him to make his announcement, though he “encouraged me.”

Portman served 12 years in Congress before serving as U.S. trade representative and budget director for the George W. Bush administration. He won his first Senate seat in 2010.

Portman, who as a House member backed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, said he now thinks parts of that bill should be repealed, though he hasn’t considered introducing such legislation himself because economic policy issues are his specialty.

Portman said he believes that same-sex couples who marry legally in states where it’s allowed should get the federal benefits that are granted to heterosexual married couples but aren’t currently extended to gay married couples because of DOMA, such as the ability to file joint tax returns.

Family law has traditionally been a state responsibility, Portman says, so the federal definition of marriage should not pre-empt state marriage laws.

If Ohio voters were to reconsider the gay marriage ban they adopted in 2004, Portman said he might support it, depending on its wording, though he would not be likely to take a leadership role on the issue just as he didn’t take a leadership role in 2004. He stressed that he doesn’t want to force his views on others, and that religious institutions shouldn’t be forced to perform weddings or recognize marriages they don’t condone.

He said his decision to announce his new stance was not motivated by its potential political impact, and he was not sure what the fallout would be. He noted that nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, and that the issue has more support among younger people.

“I believe in some respects that this is more generational than it is partisan,” said Portman.

He said he does not know of other Republican U.S. senators who share his views on gay marriage, although Cheney agrees with them, and recently advised him to “do the right thing, follow your heart.”

(Sabrina Eaton writes for The Plain Dealer.)

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  • itsthedax

    That’s nice of him, to change his position on denying equal rights to gays when his son informs him that he’s gay.

    Of course, it would have been nicer, and much more decent of him, to promote equal rights for other peoples’ sons and daughters, regardless of his son’s orientation.

  • NWDC311

    Senator Portman is “unfit” to serve as a representative of the people and should resign. How in this world could he stand and say he now supports gay rights because his son is gay. What we need is for struggling college students, senior citizens; poor Black, White Asian and Hispanics families in need of health care and just a helping hand to move into his family so he would understand their struggles and plight in our county. How insensitive and cold could a sitting US Senator actually be towards Americans. Just to think this man could have been within one crazed nut house incident of the Presidency of the United States of America. The conservative Republican Party really needs a makeover they obviously need to look forward because their past is so shattered and littered with chilling cold blooded sensitivity towards the people of this country. Not to mention, where our media on this one? FOX, CNN, ABC, NBC, anyone seen them or are they already on spring vacation?

  • Secular1

    I am not at all impressed with this latter day convert. I watched Johnathan Capehart on MSNBC giving him a pass. While, that has tempered my view of him,but it certainly has not made me a fan of him. I would have found him more authentic had he not mentioned anything at all about his conversion, and just supported his son privately and moved on. If and when he was required to make his position public, (requiring his vote or something) and not had given cover for the bigots he would have done better. I find his conversion as genuine as Barry Goldwater’s conversion when he found out that his grand son was gay. Are the oppressed supposed to hope and wait for each and every oppressor to find it in his/her heart to spare them because the oppressor’s family members turn up as oppressed?

    Why didn’t Mr. Portman not come forward as soon as he found out. Of course not, because he was initially planning to run for POTUS himslef and later on looking for the orts off of Mitt’s table. If he had comeout in support as soon as his sonn told him, I perhaps would have given him some credit. Not when it is safe. If he had at least come out filed teh joint amicus brief, along with score of moderate rpubs did just a couple of weeks ago. He did not do that even, because then he would not have gotten this much buzz. That would have gone off silently. No sir, he wanted to get some goodpositive PR for himself. Filing teh amicus bief along with scores , would not have given him that. He may have fooled lots of people with this gimmick, but he sure does not have me fooled.