Two years ago, Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s son told him he was gay. Today, the conservative from Ohio, who was once on Mitt Romney’s shortlist for a running mate, has reversed his anti-gay-marriage position, according to an interview he gave to CNN.
Sen. Portman previously voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage; he also voted in favor of banning gay couples from adopting kids in Washington, D.C.
“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 told CNN. “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.”
The conservative senator, though, stopped short of calling for a federal law to allow gay marriage. He would prefer the decision be left to the states.
“Judicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process as it’s moving in the direction of recognizing marriage for same-sex couples,” he wrote in a Friday opinion piece for his local Columbus Dispatch. “An expansive court ruling would run the risk of deepening divisions rather than resolving them.”
Portman is speaking out ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state.
Portman told CNN that he informed Mitt Romney he had a gay son during the GOP vice presidential nominee vetting process and was not turned away as a candidate because of it despite Romney and the Republican Party’s anti-gay-marriage position.
The senator also spoke with conservative stalwart Dick Cheney, who has a gay daughter, before changing his mind on gay marriage. The former vice president told Portman to “follow your heart.”
Portman’s son Will was a freshman in college when he told his parents 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,” the senator explained to CNN.
Writing in the Columbus Dispatch, Portman added that he “wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”
He also allowed in his CNN interview that he “hadn’t thought a lot about this issue,” until his son’s coming out.
His son responded to the op-ed Friday, tweeting:
Especially proud of my dad today dispatch.com/content/storie…
— Will Portman (@wdportman) March 15, 2013