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

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

WASHINGTON — Conservative U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), announced Thursday he has reversed his longtime opposition to same-sex marriage, saying he has evolved on the issue after learning two years ago that his now 21-year-old son, Will, is gay.

Portman said that his son, a junior at Yale University, told his that his sexual orientation was “not a choice,” and that he had been gay “since he could remember,” reported CNN.

Will Portman (left) and his father, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
Family photo, via CNN

“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 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 “encouraged” him to be public about his change in position on same-sex marriage, and blessed the idea of publicly announcing his sexual orientation.

“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 want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay,” said Portman.

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Portman 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.

While in Congress, he has supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and voted for a bill prohibiting gay couples in Washington from adopting.

In 2011, more than 100 University of Michigan Law School graduates staged a walk out during a commencement speech by Portman in protest of his anti-LGBT voting record.

Now, with this announcement, Portman becomes the first Senate Republican to publicly support marriage equality.

“Like countless dads across the country, Senator Portman has made the basic and courageous choice to put parenting before politics,” said Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement.

“When it comes to marriage equality, all Americans are on the same journey toward recognizing our common humanity. But while 8 in 10 Americans know a gay or lesbian person, it still takes unique courage to speak out publicly for equality. We are very grateful to Senator Portman for his virtuous stand in support of this civil rights cause,” said Griffin.

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