Rob Portman Bothers Me

Rob_Portman_portraitRecently, Rob Portman, Senator of Ohio has come out in support for gay marriage.  In Republican circles, this is quite an act of bravery.   Back in the real world however he has another motivation: His own son is gay.   I think it speaks to a certain lack of empathy on the party as a whole.  I’ve seen it time and time again.  It’s great the Senator Portman has come around on this issue but honestly, its reads as a little fucked up to me.  Honestly, is the only way for people like this to oppose discrimination.  Unfortunately, that seems to be the case.

So how anti-gay did Senator Portman used to be?  Well, just a couple of years ago, Michigan Law students were protesting that this fervently anti-gay Senator was the featured speaker during their graduation.  He co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, voted to ban same-sex couples from adopting, and wanted a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  Now things seem to have changed for him.  Here’s the Senator from his opinion piece in the Columbus Dispatch:

Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is.

Um, isn’t that what other gay people have been saying since forever?  Oh I see, now that it’s someone who you love facing discrimination, all of a sudden your cold-cold heart has melted.  Senator Portman was totally fine trying to enshrine his definition of marriage into the Constitution.  He was fine denying gay families adoption rights.  But now that it’s his son that will miss out on those opportunities, well that just can not be.  The Senator continues:

At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.   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 lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t sound like that much of a different perspective.  So either it was totally OK for people outside of your family to be discriminated against or you never really thought about it before taking all of those votes.  That’s somewhere between sad and sickening.  We’ll pick up this story from the Huffington Post.

Portman said that his son, who is now a junior at Yale University, inspired him to reassess his position on same-sex unions. The senator also consulted clergy on the matter, as well as friends such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is openly gay. According to Portman, Cheney told the senator to “follow [his] heart” on the matter.

I don’t know what’s worse, the idea of morality lessons from Dick Cheney or the fact that he’s totally right.   Even better, his original intolerance comes from the Bible.  Guess where his new-found tolerance comes from?  That’s right, the Bible!  It’s almost like you can take any message you want from that book.  But I digress.  This sort of thing always happens.  Sometimes, it’s Republican women voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act and sometimes it’s this.  As long as pay in Congress was the same between the sexes, who cares about the rest of the population?  And now, gay folks not having the same rights he and his wife have enjoyed is an issue since his son happens to be gay.  Otherwise who cares right?

So what’s Senator Portman going to do with his new-found understanding of equity under the law?  Will he become a champion for gay rights or try to use his considerable power as a Senator in Ohio to push back against the same-sex marriage ban in his home state?  That would be a negative, Ghost Rider:

If Ohio voters were to reconsider the gay marriage ban they adopted in 2004, Portman said he might support it, depending on its wording, though he would not be likely to take a leadership role on the issue just as he didn’t take a leadership role in 2004. He stressed that he doesn’t want to force his views on others.

So if it happens to come up and is worded to his specifications, Senator Portman might support ending the same-sex marriage ban in Ohio.  Wow, what a stand up guy.  So taking a leadership role now is not something to be considered despite the fact that you were the co-sponsor of DOMA.  Where was this benevolent “not forcing your views on others” thing before?  The very least he could do would be to sign the amicus brief signed by dozens of other Republicans (none currently serving BTW) advocating for DOMA’s repeal.  But he’s not even doing that.  More and more it’s looking like he’s just advocating for his son to have rights and no one else.   What’s the point of this media circus surrounding you if you aren’t going to your current power as Senator and increased celebrity to bring about some actual change?

Maybe I shouldn’t beat up on the guy too much .  After all, his son being gay led him down the road of tolerance.  It’s a good thing that he’s evolved on the issue.  He is now the only serving Republican Senator who believes in marriage equality.  And it means a lot that one of the co-sponsors of DOMA is now on the side of the angels.  But this still kinda bothered me.   We should not be satisfied with that the only way for guys like him or Dick Cheney to be against discrimination is having a gay child.  If your new beliefs are even half as strong as your old ones, how about some legislative action to back these new beliefs up, Mr. Portman?

It will be interesting to see if this evolution continues.  Hooray for progress but let’s not stop here.

Categories: Politics Fix

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1 reply

  1. This is so true!!!! Why is it that some people are only willing to make an exception on an issue when it touches them or their loved ones personally???? He should make a stand. Either you continue to sing the same song you’ve been singing in support of the ban on gay marriage or you make a stand for your son & the rest of the gay population & admit that you were wrong & support the opposite. You can’t have one foot in, one out & still expect people to take you seriously! A choice must be made…….but that’s not the republican way.

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