Ohio GOP chair says party stands behind Portman’s support of marriage equality

Bob Bennett

Bob Bennett

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s gay son leads to a change of heart on marriage equality

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The chairman of the Ohio Republican Party says the state GOP will continue to stand behind U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who has announced his support of marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

Bob Bennett

“Certainly, you can’t question Rob’s conservative credentials when it comes to issues affecting the Republican Party,” Bennett said in an interview. “I think we’ll be fine. And the party is a big tent. We welcome people holding a wide range of positions on some very difficult issues.”

Still, Bennett said the state GOP received a flurry of phone calls for about two hours on Friday morning from people upset about Portman’s stance. But he said the calls were fewer in number than those offering their opinions on Republican Gov. John Kasich’s state budget proposal.

Portman told reporters Thursday in Washington that his views began changing in 2011 when his college-age son, Will, told his parents he was gay. In an op-ed published Friday in The Columbus Dispatch, he said the decision came after much thought.

“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married,” he wrote.

As a member of the House in 1996, Portman voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Portman’s reversal makes him the only Senate Republican to back gay marriage.

Asked whether Portman’s decision would change the level of financial support or help from the state GOP party, Bennett said, “Absolutely not.”

Portman does not face re-election until 2016. He won his seat in 2010 with almost 57 percent of the vote.

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