Rob Portman is a deeply conservative man, a religious man, a "family man," as they say. After his now 21-year-old son came out as gay, it took Senator Portman (R-OH) two years and several conversations with religious leaders and numerous personal consultations with the Bible to finally do some coming out himself: as the first Republican senator to support the freedom to marry.
None of that really matters. In fact, focusing on the negatives -- how long it took him, the fact that he needed to be personally invested before supporting gay equality, and that he seems to have needed more persuading beyond the mere fact of his son's sexuality -- misses the point.
What Rob Portman did was neither heroic nor brave, but that doesn't mean we should manifest whatever latent bitterness we have about being a discriminated minority by thinking him selfish or without sympathy. We should welcome him with open arms, thank his son for his bravery, and rededicate ourselves to creating a world in which the Will Portmans of the world feel comfortable coming out.
The reflection and evolution that changed the Portman family are the same changes and evolutions going on in countless families across the world right now, as more bright young men and women come out and live open lives. Only our most vocal and strident opponents are haters; most mothers and fathers just can't relate. They see one man's attraction to another man as more weird and different than disgusting and diseased. But, as soon as they learn that their child or their friend is gay, they put a human face to the phenomenon and suddenly, being gay doesn't seem so strange.
And, that's really what's going on here: learning. Every coming out, whether on the cover of People or sitting by your mother's bed one night shortly after your 21st birthday (how I came out), is a moment of great learning. It is a moment that lifts a great weight from a burdened soul and begins to fill a gaping hole in the life experiences of another. It is both an end and a beginning: For us, it is often the end of a life lived as a lie; but for most of our parents, it is just the beginning of a journey. It is a journey we can neither deny them nor rush for them. We can only support them and teach them along the way.
Harvey Milk said it best. "Most importantly, ... every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family, you must tell your relatives, you must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends, you must tell your neighbors, you must tell the people you work with, you must tell the people at the stores you shop in. And, once they realize we are indeed their children and we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And, once you do, you will feel so much better."
Social scientists call this the contact theory, or the idea that interpersonal contact is the best way to improve relations between two otherwise hostile or distant groups. Because our sexual orientations are not superficially obvious and yet are no less deeply held than our races or genders, the success of the contact theory for bridging a divide between gays and heterosexuals requires a necessary first step of telling the world we're gay.
Then the journey can begin.
I remember telling my mother toward the end of our conversation the night I came out to her that I knew this might be hard and that there was no need to respond. Unlike her, I had been dealing with my sexuality for years; she only had 30 minutes. I told her to take some time, think about it, ask me any question she had (her first was adorable: "Do you have a special friend?"), and that I would drop everything at anytime to talk with her about it. Her journey was just starting, but for the first time, it was a journey neither she nor I had to go on alone.
Some of us have parents who knew we were gay all along or take the baton of our coming out and run with it to the next gay pride march or the next freedom to marry rally. A few of us sadly have parents who beat us or reject us. But most of our parents just want us to be happy and safe and to know the feeling of love and being loved. Senator Portman is probably in the last category.
But, like my mother, who now actively and eagerly responds to her conservative friends when they say something insensitive about gay people, Senator Portman may not start screaming into megaphones at Freedom to Marry rallies, but he will balk at the hate his Party leadership has shown and still shows toward gays. For him, the Republican support for DOMA and their opposition to the freedom to marry and, we hope, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, are not just anti-gay positions, they are anti-Will Portman positions now. And that is the remarkable success story of coming out. Will Portman has allowed his father to put a loving face on a previously amorphous, distant concept. Coming out worked. We have a new ally.
BY SAM GREISMAN
A look back at today's top stories
Rob Portman of Ohio has become the first sitting GOP Senator to publicly endorse gay marriage. Apparently we have Portman's gay son Will to thank for this change of heart because the Senator says that it was when his son came out that he was forced to look at gay rights differently. Will is rightfully a very proud son today but, there is still the question of whether Portman still believes that businesses should be able to fire employees because of their sexuality.
There was another heartwarming story of acceptance from the father of a gay son today. Try not to tear up when you read this letter that a dad left for his son, saving him the trouble of even having to come out. And the Wall Street Journal took a look at Supreme Court Justice John Roberts and what he might be thinking about the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions.
Padma Lakshmi and Anderson Cooper deal with that everyday annoyance of getting spooked by Bigfoot. Help out these filmmakers put the finishing touches on their film about finding big gay love! Also Rihanna's "Stay" gets a gay love story edit from Mister Chase.
The story of how Rob Portman came around to his support of same-sex marriage clearly has no effect on Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz because he told MSNBC that he still wouldn't support gay marriage even if his son were gay. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, NOM Chair John Eastman claims that he didn't mean to smear SCOTUS Justice John Roberts when he called his adopted kids "second best". And the owner of a texas Megachurch used a whole bunch of analogies about plugging the wrong sized plug into the wrong sized outlet and generally sounded like an idiot while he was ranting about the immorality of gay sex.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
A very happy birthday to "Huge Anus" from a local Los Angeles newscast!
Rachel Maddow took a look at Pope Francis (then Cardinal Borgoglio)'s war with the Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over same-sex marriage in Argentina in a segment that aired last night, noting that "Cardinal Borgoglio called on God to get Argentina's senators to vote against gay marriage."
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
The AP posted a related article today, noting:
According to the new pope’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, Bergoglio was politically wise enough to know the church couldn’t win a straight-on fight against gay marriage, so he urged his bishops to lobby for gay civil unions instead. It wasn’t until his proposal was shot down by the bishops’ conference that he publicly declared what Paulon described as the “war of God” — and the church lost the issue altogether.
Despite his conservatism, “Bergoglio is known for being moderate and finding a balance between reactionary and progressive sectors,” Paulon said. “When he came out strongly against gay marriage, he did it under pressure from the conservatives.”
Andrés Duque at Blabbeando looked into it a bit more, adding, "I have yet to find independent reports that Bergoglio did indeed back civil unions in Buenos Aires back in 2002."
OMD: "Metroland". From a new album out April 8.
DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS: Guy gets punched after harassing street performer.
THE NANCE: Nathan Lane and director Jack O'Brien discuss gay rights and culture.
THE CHEMISTRY OF HANGOVERS: For the St. Patty's Day over-drinkers.
For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.
A helpful guide for the general public about civil unions in Colorado.
British comedian Stephen Fry confronts Russian lawmaker about ban on "gay propaganda".
PPP POLL: Support for same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania on the rise. "PPP found a net 14 point increase in support for gay marriage in Pennsylvania over the last year and a half. Voters in the state are now almost evenly divided on the issue with 45% thinking it should be legal and 47% believing it should continue to be illegal. In November of 2011 we found only 36% support and 52% opposition for gay marriage among Keystone State voters."
Ang Lee developing series for FX.
Popular SF personal trainer Dalton Huckaby robbed and attacked by muggers after iPhone theft.
Matt Bomer is not afraid of going to the movies by himself.
Baltimore sailor says he was told to keep quiet about rape by fellow sailor: "When commanders learned of the attack, Lewis said, he was told not to report it to naval investigators. From his unit's lawyers, he said, there was 'an eerie silence.' 'At some point, it becomes about preservation of their own career, rather than helping me,' the former Navy petty officer said. 'There was no effective legal situation that I could access.'"
Calvin Klein model Matthew Terry to the NYT: "If I’m getting too bulky — playing football, you tend to bulk up with muscles, and my shoulders get too big and my neck gets too thick — I do lots of cardio and endurance training. It doesn’t add size, but it gives definition. I’ve been working on my core since, like, the eighth grade."
Hats off to Candice Glover.
London airport's Facebook page posts photo of Chicago plane crash where infant died, writes: "Because we are such a super airport...this is what we prevent you from when it snows...Weeeee :)"
Director Tom Hooper eyeing Freddie Mercury biopic.
Upcoming opponent calls on transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox to be banned from sport: "'It doesn't matter what he [Fox] had changed ... he was still born and developed a man.' Jones believes Fox's participation in the sport will distract from the accomplishments of 'real' female fighters, saying, '[WMMA] is just making a name for itself and this will have a negative impact on it.'"
Somebody tries to get Prince William's ear - literally.
Former Air Force Major Mike Almy, discharged under DADT, reaches settlement with Department of Defense in case challenging his 2006 discharge.
Ian Somerhalder literally makes love to the camera: “If you just picture someone that you really are attracted to, that you really would love to have incredibly, wild sexual relations with… imagine that camera is them. And if you’re looking at their face, it will come across in your face.”
Kmart kills a shark for advertising.
Legislative hearing on LGBT bills in Nebraska gets heated: "At one point, State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, the Judiciary Committee chairman, threatened to clear the room after an outburst by opponents of the bills. The eruption followed extended questioning of opponents by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha. One person shouted that Chambers was filibustering the bills and eating into the time allotted for opposition testimony. "
The Supreme Court has granted the Department of Justice speaking time in the Prop 8 case, the Washington Blade reports:
In court orders on Friday, justices announced the U.S. Solicitor General will be allowed speaking time for oral arguments in the case, which are scheduled for March 26.
“The motion of the Solicitor General for leave to participate in oral argument as amicus curiae and for divided argument is granted,” the orders states.
The Justice Department had filed a request for speaking time in the oral arguments shortly after it filed a legal brief against Prop 8.