Portman's Right on Gay Marriage

Sen. Rob Portman shows exactly where the rest of the GOP should be on gay rights—respectful, open-minded and fair.

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Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, questions U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan and the Department of Homeland Security's acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards as they testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 23, 2012.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman announced today that he's changed his mind and is no longer opposed to same sex marriage. Portman says the reason for the change is that his son Will, a junior at Yale, came out to his parents two years ago. Senator Portman (full disclosure: He's an old friend and former colleague of mine in the Bush 41 White House) explained his evolution—as a congressman, he was a supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act, which heads to the Supreme Court in less than two weeks along with California's Proposition 8—in an op-ed in today's Columbus Dispatch . It's today's must-read for every conservative.

Like so many of us have had happen in our own lives, Portman talks about the effect of learning that someone close to us is gay. Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told ABC News, "Senator Portman's evolution on this issue highlights how personal it is for Americans, whether they're the junior senator from Ohio or your next-door neighbor, all Americans have a gay friend, colleague or family member, and understand them to be as deserving as their straight counterparts of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that are the promise of the United States." Polls show that while not everyone personally agrees with gay marriage, majorities of Americans now think it should be legal.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.]

Portman makes the case that although reasonable people can disagree, if one is a limited government conservative concerned with protecting the liberty of all Americans, it's difficult to be opposed to same sex marriage:

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he supports allowing gay couples to marry because he is a conservative, not in spite of it. I feel the same way. We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people's lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility.

[ Take the U.S. News Poll: Is Rob Portman's Support of Gay Marriage Significant for the GOP?]

There's a constitutional argument here and a religious one as well. Portman addresses both, saying that ultimately, for him it all came down to his belief that we are all children of God. His op-ed shows exactly where the rest of the GOP should be on gay rights—respectful, open-minded and fair. Let's hope more conservatives follow his lead, and join the majority of Americans who have already changed their minds on this issue. It's the right thing to do.