Rob Portman, a conservative, sitting U.S. Senator currently serving Ohio, Thursday announced he supports same-sex marriage, mentioning his 21-year old gay son as his motivation. Portman, whom many considered as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney last year, has repeatedly received a “0″ rating, the lowest possible, from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for his position on LGBT issues. Portman has served in both the House and the Senate, and voted both for DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 that bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages — and for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Portman, who has supported the Tea Party, did not sign a recent amicus brief 131 Republicans sent asking the Supreme Court to support same-sex marriage.
“I’m announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about that has to do with gay couples’ opportunity to marry,” Portman said in a CNN interview:
“I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years. That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay,” said Portman.
Will Portman told his father and mother he is gay two years ago, when he was a freshman at Yale University.
“My son came to Jane, my wife, and I, told us that he was gay, and that it was not a choice, and that it’s just part of who he is, and that’s who he’d been that way for as long as he could remember,” said Portman.
What was the Republican senator’s reaction?
“Love. Support,” responded Portman.
And complete surprise. He told CNN that he never suspected that his son was gay.
Portman says his son, now a junior in college, helped him work through his decision to announce his change in position on gay marriage and blessed the idea of publicly announcing Will Portman’s sexuality.
“I think he’s happy and, you know, proud that we’ve come to this point, but he let it be my decision just as you know, it’s going to be his decision as to the role he plays going forward in this whole issue,” said Portman.
Until now, this was a secret to most people in politics, but not everyone.
Last year, when Romney was vetting Portman to be his running mate, the Ohio Republican informed both Romney and his top campaign advisers that he has a gay son.
“I told Mitt Romney everything,” said Portman with a laugh. “That process is, intrusive would be one way to put it. But, no, yeah, I told him everything.”
Portman, who was ultimately passed over as the GOP vice-presidential candidate in favor of Rep. Paul Ryan, said the fact that his son is gay was not the deal breaker for Romney. How does he know?
“Well, because they told me,” said Portman.
Portman whose focus is fiscal issues, says he won’t be introducing marriage equality or other LGBT civil rights legislation.
“Portman, who 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,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:
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 preempt 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.
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