Republican Senator Portman Supports Marriage Equality, Has Gay Son

He still opposes “judicial intervention,” however.

Senator PortmanRepublican Senator Rob Portman, a staunch conservative from Ohio who long opposed same-sex marriage, writes in a Columbus Dispatch opinion piece today 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.”

Why the change of heart? Two years ago, he says, his son Will—then a college freshman—revealed that he is gay. Portman explains: “I 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.”

Despite his new stance, however, Senator Portman does not believe that courts should recognize a constitutional right to marriage equality: “I believe change should come about through the democratic process in the states,” he writes, adding, “Judicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process as it’s moving in the direction of recognizing marriage for same-sex couples. An expansive court ruling would run the risk of deepening divisions rather than resolving them.” (Some articles and blog posts—like this one from the New York Times—suggest or state that Portman supports the lawsuit seeking to invalidate the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Based on the above quote, I don’t think that’s right, but it’d be great news if somebody could correct me!) (UPDATE: The New York Times piece has now been corrected.)

It remains to be seen how the Senator’s evolution on marriage equality will affect his position on a range of legislation concerning the LGBT community. The Human Rights Campaign gave him a score of 15 out of 100 on its most recent Congressional Scorecard. (Portman avoided a zero because he supported the President’s nomination of an openly gay man to a judgeship in New York.) Less than a year ago, he voiced opposition to the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment.