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 150.

    You've gotta love how Republicans are so concerned with oppressing other except when in applies to them, their families or the ones they love. Empathy with anyone else is beyond them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Govt needs to get out of the blatantly unconstitutional business of defining marriage. The only aspect of any union the govt should be concerned with is the legal aspect and privileges/responsibilities. ALL unions (hetero- or homo-) should be certified legally as "civil unions." The concept of "marriage" is one of personal/religious belief and the govt does not get to define church sacrament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    It's a shame it took this long. But it's good news for homosexual rights in America. Sadly, his fellow Republicans (A party whose big achievement was the abolition of slavery) have strayed far from the ideals of the original party, and will probably cast him out.

    As for the rest of you, Christianity doesn't own marriage. Move along please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    U.S. oligarchy/ruling class' cynicism is so predictable. They are repressive on issues until it affects their lives personally. They are supposed to represent people, not dictate to them. Capitalism is evil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    re 140

    For 10 years as I approached ordination I asked the question "How can it be? I'm gay"

    For ten years as I approached a same-sex partnership and then marriage I asked the question "How can it be? I'm ordained."

    I am certain no str8 person does the amount of soul searching that a gay does. Be sure, all the cheap, Biblically based spears now thrown, we have thrown at ourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    As a gay man, I'm bewildered by straight people who claim same-sex marriage will undermine opposite-sex marriage. All the social pressure in the world couldn't make me straight and marry a woman. Is heterosexuality really so fragile? (I'm of course being sarcastic: my point is that no one's sexual orientation is going to "change sides" becase of a political outcome).

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    45., 20., 104., and others: We do not live in a theocracy! Of course you can love anyone without condoning their behavior. I hardly think allowing two consenting adults to marry is "condoning" anything. It's allowing grown adults to make their own decisions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Everything in the Bible is coming true with regards to how mankind's morals will steadily deteriorate until the Second Coming. This is just the latest incarnation with a prominent politician like Portman lending credibility to homosexuality. If Portman wants to do this, best of luck to him. I fear God a lot more than the pro-homosexual leftists of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Imagine the especial pain his son must have gone through in his "coming out" knowing clearly what his father's views were on the matter!


    "How many people on here or in the church in general have actually spoken to God on his/her views and opinion on gay marriages?"

    I have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Interesting that he was prepared to change his views on the discovery of his son's sexuality.
    It makes you think if there are any other positions that he holds that might be ripe for changing - perhaps abortion is next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    How many people on here or in the church in general have actually spoken to God on his/her views and opinion on gay marriages?

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Well done Senator Portman. Perhaps one day we will have societies that are mature and honest with themselves about some of life's realities. This is a small step in that direction. A society that values individual liberty should welcome equal marriage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.


    You are probably right about marriage in the West being on the decline anyway, which is especially why the current opposition might be mute in a decade or so. As I understand there is growing support for heterosexual Civil Partnerships here in the UK, it will be interesting to see what effect this would have on the institution

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.


    "[Homosexuality] remains a typical statistical deviation from the biological norm."

    Unfortunately choice of words.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    It's interesting how those who are religious have commandeered marriage and now claim that it is thier own and no one else is allowed to marry unless it is done how they want it to be done. What is marriage, but a legal concept that predates these religions themselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    125. kEITH
    Hehe, I like being nice and I definitely love making love! ;) (Sorry I missed your sarcasm, oops)

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    And this right wing, holier than thou, couldn't have done this same soul searching before he found out his son was gay? How many people has he hurt with his bigotry prior to this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    I'm all for human rights. However, I'm torn on how I feel about the senator. On the one hand, he is acknowledging that gay men/women are entitled to live happy lives, which is good. But on the other, he does so only because he is finally faced with an actual homosexual in his own personal life. This lack of empathy towards others you don't know is unsettling to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Emma 126 You can always choose to live in a non tolerant country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Government has been involved in marriage for centuries upon centuries. You may not think it should be that way, but that is simply not how it has been historically, so 'interference' in marriage by government is nothing new. It's only the scale that has changed for some, and where the line is, but saying government should not be involved is fighting a battle that was conceded long ago.


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