Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced he now supports gay marriage, after his son Will told him he was gay. The senator said his change in viewpoint "came about through a process" after Will came out to Portman and his wife in 2011.
The Ohio Republican was a co-sponsor of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, when he was a member of the House. The law is currently under review by the Supreme Court, with opponents arguing it's unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Portman now says the issue should be left up to the states to decide, and his son's coming out changed the position he's previously held in Congress:
It allowed me to think about this issue from a new perspective and that's as a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister have.
The new position makes the Ohioan the only sitting Republican senator to publicly endorse gay marriage, but Portman says he has not considered how it will affect him politically. In 2012 he was one of the frontrunners for Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick and said during the vetting process he disclosed his son's sexual orientation. Portman also said he discussed his changed view with former vice president Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay. He said Cheney advised him to "do the right thing. Follow your heart."
Portman's views reflect national evolution on the issue of gay marriage, with poll numbers showing increasing support for marriage equality. In February, several Republican politicians signed a legal brief in support of gay marriage. The party has traditionally opposed it, but has been more open to evolving its social views in light of recent electoral losses among younger voters, who tend to favor marriage equality.
Yet Portman's evolution on the issue may not necessarily signify that the opinion of the Republican Party as a whole is also changing. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Friday that while he considers his fellow Ohioan a "friend and ally," he "continues to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman."
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