US Republican Senator Rob Portman favours gay unions

Rob Portman speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington 15 February 2011 Senator Rob Portman wrote of how he had "wrestled" with his faith

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Influential US Republican Senator Rob Portman has renounced his opposition to gay marriage.

The Ohio senator said he began to change his mind in 2011 after his son, Will, revealed he was gay.

Sen Portman said that his former views on marriage had stemmed from his Methodist faith.

In 1996, as a member of the House of Representatives, he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

He also voted in 1999 against allowing gay couples in Washington DC to adopt children.

Senator's surprise

The gay marriage issue has increasingly divided the Republican party, with some members arguing that opposition to same-sex unions contributed to the party's losses nationally in last November's elections.

Start Quote

Ultimately, it came down to my belief that we are all children of God”

End Quote Senator Rob Portman

Sen Portman, who was considered a potential running mate for Republican White House candidate Mitt Romney, announced his change of heart in interviews with several Ohio newspapers.

"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," he wrote in an opinion piece for the Columbus Dispatch.

"That isn't how I've always felt," he wrote. "As a congressman, and more recently as a senator, I opposed marriage for same-sex couples."

His son posted a message on Twitter, saying: "Especially proud of my dad today".

Sen Portman said to Ohio newspapers that his son Will, now 21 and a student at Yale University, told him being gay was "not a choice", and that he had been gay "since he could remember".

The Ohio senator said he and his wife, Jane, had been surprised but also supportive.

The father of three said he had confided in the pastor of his church in Cincinnati about the issue.

He also spoke to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who opposes gay marriage, and to former Vice-President Dick Cheney, who supports it. Mr Cheney's daughter is a lesbian.

US gay marriage laws

A same-sex couple marry in San Francisco in June 2008
  • Same-sex marriage has been passed in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, Washington DC, Connecticut, Maryland and Washington
  • Thirty-one US states have banned same-sex marriage through law or constitutional amendment

Sen Portman told the newspapers that Mr Romney had been informed about Will's sexuality last year.

Mr Romney spoke out last May against gay marriage, a week after President Barack Obama took the political gamble of announcing his support for such unions.

Sen Portman said he had struggled with reconciling his Christian faith and his desire to see his son have the same opportunities for relationships as his siblings.

"Ultimately, it came down to the Bible's overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God," the senator wrote.

Sen Portman said he would like Congress to repeal the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma), which bans federal recognition of gay marriage.

But he argued that states should not be forced to recognise such unions.

Sen Portman said in his opinion piece: "Judicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process as it's moving in the direction of recognising marriage for same-sex couples.

"An expansive court ruling would run the risk of deepening divisions rather than resolving them."

Nine US states and the District of Columbia fully recognise gay marriage, including several states which legalised the unions through a popular vote in 2012.

The announcement comes just over a week before the US Supreme court will hear arguments in two cases related to gay marriage. One challenges Doma.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    What a 22 carat hypocrite, I thought our politicians were bad enough, but this really does take the p out of those who voted for him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    @12. ThylacineKid

    Civil Partnerships ARE available to straight couples.

    in a civil partnership there is no mention of god or any religious text.

    I'll try to not mock you in this one so that it stays up.... :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    "Sen Portman said he had struggled with reconciling his Christian faith and his desire to see his son have the same opportunities for relationships as his siblings."
    Priceless..he had no such struggle when it was about other peoples kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Oh so the guy now has a "change of heart" because he found out his son is gay. So is it now that every public policy is based on the personal lives of the policy makers depending on whether such policy favour them or their family members personally? No wonder we live in such a screwed up society!

    P.S. I support gay marriage though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Although it's great that he's now changed his mind, what a pity that he slavishly followed the dictates of religion for so long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Bl;imey - signs that the GOP is about to joi us in the 21stC......

    .....oh, probably not, probably just sugns that the Mad Hatters' Tea Party tendancy are about to vote him out of office the very next chance they get........

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    This just shows that people that should spend more time exposing themselves to other ideas and other cultures. It's easy to dismiss or hate people if you haven't personally taken the time to personally see what they're actually like. Ultimately, opposition to gay rights, racism, etc. are all based on irrational fear.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    This guy is just a huge hypocrite. As soon as something he was opposed to comes to his door, then wham, a conversion to the light ! Proof positive of politicians bending to the wind at any level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    It seems that most people who base their view on gay marriage on ideology or faith are opposed to it; whilst most people who base their view on first hand experience support it.

    I think that speaks for itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It is amazing how folks who profess to be Christians want to change the Bible and belief in Jesus Christ to accommodate their own wants and desires. One can still love the 'gays' without condoning their behavior. Portman cannot be a true Mehodist and just up and change his mind...doesn't work that way.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Well this is step in the right direction for social development in the US. Certainly will cause some uproar within the Republican Party but at least it will provoke conversation. For a secular constitution, the Bible plays a heavy role in their politics, and it is right that this should be challenged.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    "Ultimately, it came down to the Bible's overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God," the senator wrote.

    If only more people felt felt that way about The Bible whilst using it to form their opinions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Civil partnership is available to all in Canada :) All you have to do is go to a notary and sign papers, and ur set, whether you are gay, straight, bi, whatever....

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Another pathetic Republican "seeing the light", ONLY when it affects them personally.

    They have NO empathy for anyone unless it affects them personally. What total hypocrites.
    Kind of like Catholics, who say that they don't like poverty, and yet in the 21st Century still condemn to use of contraceptives, KEEPING PEOPLE POOR AND FAMILIES LARGE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    This interesting event, apparently triggered by a family reality influencing the Senator's policy, is in striking contrast to the new Pope's already stated policy, of implacable opposition to gay marriage. The Vatican is run by people without families of their own. Their homophobia is becoming increasingly isolated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    3. XLNC

    Your comments are disgusting, that almost goes without saying. But you are also wrong; civil partnerships aren't "good enough for straight couples", they're not available to straight couples. And that's the point, it's one rule for heterosexuals and another rule for homosexuals. In a just society it should be one rule for all, regardless of something as inconsequential as sexuality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Opinions are changing fast across America, I expect the majority of states will legalise equal marriage within the next few years and eventually those states dragging their feet will have their laws struck down by the Supreme Court as happened with laws banning interracial marriage. A couple of decade's time and people will be wondering what all the fuss was about!


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