Since their serious loss last November, the Republican party has worked to rebuild its appeal by presenting its conservative platform in a more relatable light to the voters it alienated in the past election. One of the main contested positions is the topic of legalizing gay marriage. Up until this past Friday, March 15, all sitting Republican senators took a unified stance against the legalization, but due to a surprising turn of events for Ohio Senator Rob Portman (R), he has announced a change of heart and now endorses same-sex marriage and all the federal transformation its legislation would entail.
Two years ago, Senator Portman was faced with a confession from his now 21 year-old son, Will, regarding his sexuality. It came as a definite surprise to the senator that his son is gay, and in his op-ed published in The Columbus Dispatch, he speaks of the struggle he faced with respect to his Christian faith and the deep-rooted “…tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”
He has taken a different approach to conservative principles by affirming the fact that conservatives strongly believe in personal liberties and the least amount of government interference in the lives of its citizens. He goes beyond that by writing of his realization, as a result of speaking to his pastor and other religious and political leaders, that gay marriage would not be a threat to American and Christian values, but “a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution.”
The timeliness of his announcement cannot be, and is not, a coincidence. The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments against California’s Proposition 8. Just last month, multiple Republican leaders — including top aides to former President Bush, four former governors and two members of the House of Representatives — in an attempt to aid in rebranding the Republican party, signed a legal brief directed at the Supreme Court, advocating for a decision that would declare that gay couples have a right to wed under the United States Constitution.
The senator himself was a vocal supporter of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act passed when President Bill Clinton was in office. With the act currently under review by the Supreme Court and arguments scheduled this month, he felt he was pressed for time to finally publicize his shift on the matter of contention.
While the change of heart was only brought about when the social matter personally affected his family, it still took a great deal of courage to turn away from the comfort of remaining within his party’s boundaries publicly, and from his previous value system.
This is not the first time a prominent Republican leader is known to have a gay or lesbian child, but it is a refreshing first to see one of them renounce their previous stance on the controversy and openly back gay marriage and rights. Not only was it his son coming out to the country, but Senator Portman coming out of the conservative closet with a more liberal take on the question that continues to divide the nation.