Portman’s Gay Son: Dad’s a Good Man and I’m Proud of Him

Image: Portman’s Gay Son: Dad’s a Good Man and I’m Proud of Him Undated photo of U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), right, and his son, Will.

Monday, 25 Mar 2013 01:36 PM

By Bill Hoffman

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The gay son of Republican Sen. Rob Portman says he’s proud of his “thoughtful and open-minded” father for his controversial support of same-sex marriage.

“I’m proud of my dad, not necessarily because of where he is now on marriage equality (although I’m pretty psyched about that),” writes Will Portman in an opinion piece in Monday’s Yale Daily News.

“He’s been thoughtful and open-minded in how he’s approached the issue, and … shown that he’s willing to take a political risk in order to take a principled stand.

“He was a good man before he changed his position, and he’s a good man now, just as there are good people on either side of this issue today.”

Will, a 21-year-old junior at Yale, was thrust into the spotlight last week when his father, Ohio’s junior senator, reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying he flip-flopped after learning his son was gay.

“I hope that my dad’s announcement and our family’s story will have a positive impact on anyone who is closeted and afraid, and questioning whether there’s something wrong with them,” the younger Portman writes.

He says he entered Yale in 2010 with “two big uncertainties hanging over my head” — whether his father would win the Senate and if he’d have the courage to come out of the closet.

He said although his dad won, and he was enjoying Yale, “the truth was, I wasn’t happy. I’d make stuff up when my suitemates and I would talk about our personal lives. I remember going to a dance … with a girl in my class and feeling guilty about pretending to be somebody I wasn’t.”

In addition, “I worried about how my friends back home would react when I told them I was gay. Would they stop hanging out with me?”

He finally took the plunge, beginning with his parents.

“They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive. That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was,” Will writes.

“The following summer, the summer of 2012, my dad was under consideration to be Gov. Romney’s running mate. The rest of my family and I had given him the go-ahead to enter the vetting process.

“My dad told the Romney campaign that I was gay, that he and my mom were supportive and proud of their son, and that we’d be open about it on the campaign trail. When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign.”

Will writes that while some have criticized his father for waiting two years before endorsing same-sex marriage, “part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out.

“But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public. We had decided that my dad would talk about having a gay son if he were to change his position on marriage equality. It would be the only honest way to explain his change of heart.”

Will says the issue of marriage for same-sex couples is a “complicated nexus of love, identity, politics, ideology and religious beliefs.

“We should think twice before using terms like ‘bigoted’ to describe the position of those opposed to same-sex marriage or ‘immoral’ to describe the position of those in favor …”

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