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Social Issues
Prominent U.S. Republican Senator Says “I’ve Changed My Mind” On Marriage Equality
March 15, 2013
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Portman in August, 2012 (Photo: AP)

A prominent U.S. Republican senator - Rob Portman - has announced that he now supports gay marriage.

In an opinion piece in today's Columbus Dispatch, Portman says "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."

Two years ago, Portman's son Will came out to his parents.

In the op-ed, Portman says he and his wife Jane "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."

That moment led Portman to rethink his position on gay marriage. He says he spoke to friends, colleagues and family members, including former vice president Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is gay, and who has said of same-sex unions "freedom means freedom for everybody."

As a member of Congress, Portman had opposed marriage for same-sex couples. But he says "knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to live happy, meaningful lives with the people they love."

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Portman with his son Will (Photo: Portman family)

In the course of rethinking his position, he says he "wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfilment 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."

As for how he squares his support for gay marriage with being a conservative politician, he uses the example of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said he supports same-sex unions because he is conservative, not in spite of it.

"We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people's lives," Portman writes.

"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."

Portman also sat down with CNN's Dana Bash to discuss his change of heart. You can see part of that interview below:

Portman was reportedly on the short list of possible running mates for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.

He is not the only Republican to shift his tone or position on gay marriage and benefits for same-sex couples.

Republican donor Foster Friess, who helped fund Rick Santorum's 2012 presidential run, said this week he supports some domestic benefits for same-sex couples.

"I think it's unfair that people can't give assets to whoever they want. When I die, my assets can go to my wife," he told Buzzfeed. "And a gay person - you ought to have a system where maybe you can just say, 'You can give your assets to anybody you want.'"

Friess also believes the Republican Party should be more respectful toward the gay and lesbian community.

"When you talk about the party, that's the problem because there isn't any unified message," he said. "You've got people who are gay-bashers, who forget that these are human beings that need love just like all of us need love. We have to be sensitive to that."

And last month, more than 100 well-known Republicans, including Beth Myers, one of Romney's top campaign advisors, signed a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to grant same-sex couples the right to wed under the Constitution.

As for public opinion, a November poll by ABC News/Washington Post found 51 per cent of Americans backed gay marriage, and ABC reports that majorities have supported same-sex unions in five polls in a row since 2011.

As for members of the Republican party, only 31 per cent supported gay marriage in that same poll. Two-thirds said they oppose it.

Related:

Dear America: Support Gay Marriage Or These Gay Guys Will Marry Your Girlfriends!

John Irving On Opponents Of Gay Marriage

The Changing Face Of Canadian Families: Gay Marriage And Common Law Relationships On The Rise In Canada

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