In perhaps one of the biggest for the gay rights movement on the Republican side, sitting Ohio Sen. Rob Portman publicly came out in support for gay marriage Friday morning. His announcement came two years after Portman’s son came out to him.Portman’s public shift serves as what is likely the most dramatic swing for a politician on same-sex marriage. He went from actively trying to ban it to, now, expressing support.
In 1999, Portman voted in support of an amendment to ban gay adoptions in Washington, D.C. In 2004, he voted yes on the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. And as recently as April 2011 — after his son reportedly came out to him and his wife — Portman’s selection as Michigan University’s commencement speaker was protested by students because of his “openly hostile” record on gay rights.
Portman explained his personal shift in a piece in the Columbus Dispatch on Friday:
Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.
At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.
Portman’s reasoning is remarkably similar to President Barack Obama, who publicly announced his support for gay marriage last May. Obama cited friends, family, neighbours, and members of his own staff who were gay as part of his shift.
Portman, who was considered a top candidate to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee, told CNN that he informed Romney of his son’s sexual orientation. But he said it was not a deciding factor in Romney passing him over for Rep. Paul Ryan.
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