WASHINGTON HARBOR, Md. --- Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio made a surprise announcement Friday that he had changed his mind on gay marriage, after learning that his son was gay. "[I want] him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have—to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years," he told Cleveland.com from his Washington office.
Contrast that with comments made just across the river Thursday by fellow Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who told conservative supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference here that he was still very much in support of traditional marriage.
"Just because I believe states have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot," he said.
There was more talk of bigotry at the conservative conference Thursday night during a controversial panel entitled "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition." The panel began with remarks by Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, a Republican gay rights group that has been banned from the conference as a sponsor.
"We have tolerated something in our movement for far too long—anti-gay bigotry," LaSalvia told a packed room—one of the most well-attended panels at CPAC. His comments were greeted with hearty applause.
But LaSalvia also seemed to be seeking compromise at the conservative conference, telling panel attendees that he didn't want to brand people who don't support gay marriage as bigots.
"Opposition to gay marriage isn't, in and of itself, bigotry," he said. "There are, however, a few in our movement who just don't like gay people, and in 2013 that is just not okay anymore."
LaSalvia also said he believed every Republican today has a gay person in their life, and that he believes this reality will change many minds—just as it did Portman's.