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Portman Flips to Support Gay Marriage

Image: Portman Flips to Support Gay Marriage Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who revealed his son is gay, now supports gay marriage.

By Lisa Barron   |   Friday, 15 Mar 2013 08:40 AM

In a stunning reversal of position, Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has told newspapers in his state that he now supports same-sex marriage, after revealing his son is gay.

His staff said he told GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney of his son Will’s sexual orientation while he was being considered as a potential running mate. Ultimately Portman was passed over for Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

Portman, who co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act when in the House in 1996, said he changed his position after Will, 21, a junior at Yale, told him and his wife Jane of his sexual orientation in 2011. The Portmans have three children.

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Portman, 57, wrote an op-ed piece in Friday’s Columbus Dispatch, headlined, “Gay couples also deserve a chance to get married,” to explain his change of heart.

“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,” his column begins.

Portman said Will had told him he had known “for some time” that he was gay and it was not a lifestyle he had chosen.

“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,” he says in the column.

Portman said his own position against same-sex marriage was “rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman,” but he realized he wanted all three of his children to be able to lead “happy, meaningful lives with the people they love.”

Portman said he wrestled with the problem, but ultimately believed the Bible’s themes of love and compassion overrode other considerations.

He said he now agrees with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who holds that conservatives should support gay marriage.

“We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility.

“One way to look at it is that gay couples’ desire to marry doesn’t amount to a threat but rather a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution.”

Portman even quoted Ronald Reagan, saying he had said that all great change in America begins at the dinner table, and that is how it happened for him.

“Around the country, family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers have discussed and debated this issue, with the result that today twice as many people support marriage for same-sex couples as when the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law 17 years ago by President Bill Clinton, who now opposes it.”

Portman’s change of heart follows a similar shift by former Vice President Dick Cheney after his daughter Mary revealed that she is gay. Cheney too now supports legalizing gay marriage.

On the same day that Portman spoke about his change of heart, however, fellow GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, widely considered to be a contender for the presidency in 2016, reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage in a speech at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

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“Just because I believe states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot,” said Rubio.

Word of Portman’s shift on gay marriage also comes as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act later this month.

Portman has reportedly said he now wants the court to invalidate the part of the law stating that marriage is between a man and a woman, but that individual states should be allowed to decide whether to allow same-sex marriage.

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