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 50.


    The sooner we can get religion to die out, the sooner we will achieve our goals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I am happy for the Senator to change his mind, however it is a worry that he appears incapable of making up his mind on an important issue until it came to dinner. So on African or Islamic issues he will need a son in-law who is either an African or moslem for him to understand the issues and vote? May be he should relocate to Pakistan before the next vote on it. This is a big worry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    43 Anne:Call me a cynic but isn't this change of mind because it's HIS son? What about all the other sons?

    Everyone has blind spots. Sometimes it takes an issue that hits home to remove a particular blinder. I wouldn't denounce his new vision because he was unable to see before. Instead I would applaud and know there is truly hope that others may also have this particular blinder removed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Love the people, hate the sin!

  • Comment number 46.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    “And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?” Matthew 19:4,5. Here Jesus lets us know that marriage is ordained by God to be between a man and a woman. God will judge us if we try to change that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    this 'moderate' republican will be on the top of the hit-list of the tea party's targets to defeat come primary time at his next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Call me a cynic but isn't this change of mind because it's HIS son?
    What about all the other sons?
    Applaud him?
    Not a chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Portman's view is his own. Naturally, he would support his son so he should recuse himself from voting on this issue.since he does not reflect the views of his constituants. ..
    He is also pushing against the views of the new Pope and his view is like a snow flake in the spring in comparison. Noone is listening except the liberal media who will announce it everywhere they can

  • Comment number 41.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    He admitted he was wrong and learned his lesson. It's very hard to be tolerant if you're never exposed to any 'otherness'. I suspect most of the circles these politicians and other assorted bigots have move/d in for most of their lives have been pretty homogenous. All politicians should be forced to adopt homosexual children from ethnic minorities! That'll set 'em straight (no pun intended, etc.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    The Guy has the guts to change his mind, so why knock him? He has a son who is gayand has decided to support the fact that his son deserves the same rights as his siblings. All I can say is good for him for having the courage to do a U turn!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    so he said he stopped listening to himself and listened to someone his decisions might actually affect?


  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Clearly the devil has possessed him.

    Seriously, it is nice to see him wake up to his own humanity. Sometimes a family event is needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I don't know why a lot of people are criticising his hypocrisy...
    We all know that bigotry is bred by ignorance.
    Criticising these people galvanises their resolve to stick to their outdated ways. We need to calmly show them WHY they're stupid.
    Tolerance cannot be forced onto people, you can only really achieve it through interaction and understanding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Our elected officials are put into office to represent the majority of the people that put them into office, not their own families. It is clear this man does not have the best interest of his state or our country at heart if he makes decisions based on what goes on at home. I don't really care if he is for or against an issue, base it on what the people that put him into office want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    31tokyopen:Yes,but if Portman's son hadn't come out to him he would still have been refusing others'kids what he feels his*own*son is entitled to, equality and a chance at happiness as enshrined in the US constitution. Imho he is a self serving hypocrite, thoroughly untrustworthy and deserving of the contempt of his constituency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    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?
    Why not? That's how most people decide who to vote for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    29. XLNC
    "@12. ThylacineKid: Civil Partnerships ARE available to straight couples."

    You're confusing civil wedding ceremonies with civil partnerships. You may remember the case in the European Court of Human Rights where a straight couple are challenging this?

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

    Probably best not to mock at all, given the circumstances...

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Lots of people commenting seem to think that a person who learns through their experience of life and allows themself to grow, changing their opinion on something and speaking out, even when it means standing up and admitting they might once have been wrong, is hypocytical and somehow a bad person. A hypocryte says one thing and does the other. a mature, reasonable human being can learn and change


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