Why We Welcome Rob Portman


Sen_portmanRob 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."

2_portmanSocial 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. 


  1. Shane says

    “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.”

    He will? How do you know this?

  2. ian says

    Well said. I agree Sen. Portman is no hero, nor brave, but he did the right thing. I hope he continues to do so.

  3. Jesus says

    And if his son wasn’t gay? Would he have just stuck with his support for DOMA until it was politically expedient not to? What about all the other people he represents who are LGBT-identifying folks who also want to have access to marriage equality? Were their lives and struggles not good enough?

    I’m sure more privileged folks are going to balk at us for not being overjoyed about this, but I guess I’m just an ungrateful queer who would rather have no allies at all that an ally whose prone to doing the “right” thing only when it personally affects him or his family. You know, in the way privilege works. Was he really that distanced from the whole backlash against queer folks that he didn’t even think about how DOMA really impacted the lives of people way before he knew his son was gay?

    Forgive me if I don’t feel obliged to thank Senator Portman for his support of marriage equality, especially since he didn’t feel obliged to protect the rights of all Americans, naturalized and non-immigrant or otherwise, when he cosponsored DOMA. And don’t tell me I shouldn’t expect more from a Senator. There are a ton of other people who would do his job a thousand times better given the chance.

  4. says

    To Rob Portman and his ilk (other Republican’s who have recently come out in support of gay marriage), how many have you hurt over the years with your words and actions? This sudden ‘revelation’ does not and will not give you a free pass. I truly hope that history has recorded all the hate & bigotry that has emerged from these Republicans so they, and their family/ancestors can someday look back and see the hate they professed, and denounce them and their actions, the same as George Wallace’s daughter has.

  5. says

    @Jesus, Our enemies spend our whole lives trying to make us bitter and miserable. When we react with bitterness, they win. They win by making us miserable. They win by assuring that we push away people changing to our side. They win by making us, and our opinions, unlikable. It is hard for us to rebound from all their vitriol and hate, but we must. Don’t let the haters win by turning you into a hater-back. “Living well is the best revenge.”

  6. Rich says

    The attacks on Portman miss an important point: he didn’t hold back his support until such time as it personally affected him (meaning he only cared when he had a personal stake in it), but until such time as he gained personal understanding of the issue. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. “Gay” is an abstraction until it’s not anymore, and his son’s coming out made it no longer an abstraction. That’s why Harvey Milk’s point about coming out is so important and so accurate. It’s much easier to be insensitive to a group of people you don’t know, and much harder to someone you know and love. So now that he’s a little more understanding of us, why not return the favor?

  7. DannyEastVillage says

    Ari, you touched on something important that I think is probably true for a lot of republicans and others who are not 100% comfortable with having gay children.

    When I was in my fifties, a priest came to my mom and dad’s parish who never missed an opportunity to bad-mouth gay people. After a few sundays of it, my mom stopped going to church.

    They were married in that church in 1946, all of us were baptized and confirmed there. Till their deaths last year, they maintained friendships with parishioners dating back some 60 years and more.

    Even tho’ it would be years before mom could speak openly with me about my being gay (I knew we’d turned a corner when she asked me to go to the mall with her to help her pick out make-up) she had long before that become unable and unwilling to tolerate listening to a priest bad mouth her son.

    The church has failed at convincing many people to reject their gay children, though many church leaders persevere. I doubt if very many republicans like hearing it any better than democrats do.

  8. Bobby says

    I’m so glad you posted this. I was furious last year when the Log Cabin Republicans trashed Obama when he publicly supported marriage equality for being “a day late and a dollar short”. For the Portmans, Obamas, Clintons and (dare I include?) Cheneys of this world who may have taken longer to come out for fairness, I applaud you. I’m not crazy about the length and path of your journeys, but I’m thrilled you reached your destination.

  9. John W says

    Ari, your post perfectly expresses what I’ve been thinking about Portman’s evolution — it’s an example of the outcome we hope for when urging people to come out. I’m less inclined to fault Portman for past injuries than to wish him (and his son, and us) well on a journey well begun.

  10. Ken says

    Disappointing to see so many anti Portman comments by gays. What ever his motivation was, I welcome and do thank anyone who supports our rights. I know many people who were anti gay but changed their position, it not unusual. The President did the same thing. Let’s not worry about when these people get it right, just be glad when they finally do get it right. We need to encourage more people to change their minds and support marriage equality and bashing those who do does not help that effort.

  11. zack says

    His being a senator is about all of his constituents, not just his son.

    Yes, it’s great he’s now supporting equality, but it’s a selfish reason none the less. There has to be a deep reflection that has no personal gain to get my “hero” status placed upon someone changing their mind. It was this kind of deep self-reflection and taking into consideration the plight of others WITHOUT any personal gain that brought about the first wave of civil rights. Imagine if this were the case then. How would a bunch of white men have made the decision to vote for civil rights for all? How could it have been a personal reason then that directly affected them or an immediate loved one? From this perspective, it becomes clear that although his stance is a nice change for equality, it is gained only for himself and his immediate family; not the American people or constitution he swore to uphold.

  12. Randy says

    Let’s not diminish this man. He’s a Republican Senator, with nearly 60 years of life experience to drawn on. He’s not just the dad down the street. (And, notably, this isn’t the 20th century anymore, either)

    He had a responsibility to inform himself about things like this BEFORE voting (for a very long time) against us, and either he simply didn’t care, or he actively decided to make our lives harder.

    Yes, he is fundamentally selfish.
    Yes, he is without empathy.
    It’s bitterness, sure, but it’s also fact, and it doesn’t get erased by continuing to be selfish, in a way that happens to coincide what what we need.

    Like Ken Mehlman, he’s going to have to do a LOT to reverse the damage he’s knowingly contributed to.

  13. DannyEastVillage says

    @Shane: Ari knows this because Senator Portman has chosen his family – his son – over the hate-speech his party is so well-known for. Portman’s choice to do so publicly makes Ari’s inference a foregone conclusion.

  14. Francis says

    We have a new ally is way, way pushing it, but I do like this piece.

    Maybe my standards are too high, but I don’t equate “I support _____ in spite/regardless of ____” as the same as “I support _______ BECAUSE of ______”. There is a difference.

    I’m happy Rob Portman has gained some empathy. I’m mostly happy he’s accepted his son. That’s the biggest deal for me. Will is incredibly brave and deserves all the praise his dad Rob is getting.

    Rob Portman is in the same place many people have been and are. He says he’s for marriage equality. He conceptually supports equality for all. But the people I’m thinking of don’t do anything to fight for marriage equality. They don’t lift a finger. They don’t speak out. They don’t really care overall. They’re not against it, but they don’t care. Rob Portman hasn’t even addressed his position on ENDA where he said he believed people should be fired for their orientation. Does he support ENDA now?

    There are a lot of people these days who say they support our rights, but when push comes to shove, they can’t be relied on. There isn’t anything that has occurred the past two days that indicates Rob Portman doesn’t fit this category. We need straight ALLIES and this doesn’t pass muster. But it’s good that he’s changed his bigoted ways.

  15. distinguetraces says

    It took him two years after his son came out – but it only took him a few months after he was no longer under consideration for the VP slot on Romney’s ticket.

  16. Ray says

    For me it’s a little like skinheads who decide to keep kosher.

    Portman still believes that businesses have the right to discriminate in doing business with gay people.

    I will wait to popped the bubble!

  17. Jack says

    “…latent bitterness at being a discriminated minority…” Thank you, Ari, for articulating my own subconscious frame of mind. Do you have any thoughts on how one conquers that for good?

  18. Jeff Kurtti says

    I just don’t agree with this. I found Richard Lawson’s comments more in line with my thinking: “Rob Portman’s sudden conversion perfectly illustrates the flippant, careless cruelty of the positions he once held. Until gayness in all its complexity and simplicity was staring him right in the face, in the shape of a person he helped create, Portman ultimately did not care about any of the country’s gay people. He did not value their love, or the love they might have for their children. He didn’t think them deserving of simple rights because he figured their relationships inferior to his own. Who knows how vehement his beliefs actually were, but really that doesn’t much matter in the end. And really, if his stances on gay issues were for mere political gain rather than bedrock ideology, that makes it all the worse. In that case, gay people did not even deserve passion in the negative; their causes, their lives really, were meaningless to him, easily dismissed for the sake of political expediency. That’s a pretty dark way to behave when you actually stop to think about it.”

  19. MiddleoftheRoader says

    Nice piece. Many of us are so tired about those in our community who continually bash previously anti-gay leaders who — for whatever their reasons — have come around to be supportive of our community. I am no Republican, but without the (overdue) support of people like Rob Portman, Ken Mehlman and others of their ilk, it will take much longer, and it will be much harder, to win our victories.

    After apartheid was legally outlawed in South Africa, there was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Former apartheid leaders had the opportunity to apologize for their prior conduct and be “forgiven”. Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, who were probably the most respected anti-apartheid leaders, were strong believers in that Commission. It has helped South Africa move forward, it has helped wounds heal, and it has encouraged more people to “come over” to the right, moral side of that issue.

    I hope that our gay brethren and sisters can find it in their hearts, like Mandela and Tutu, to welcome support from the Melhmans and Portmans of this world and stop trashing them. Can you rise to the level of these great leaders like Mandela and Tutu?? That is the way to success and healing.

  20. Bart says

    Why I welcome him to the side of the equitable and enlightened, I don’t embrace a man who is so shallow and unempathetic to others that something has to happen to him for him to even consider changing. I applaud his son…that is bravery being raised in the environment he was apparently raised, but Rob Portman’s “evolution” is the product of selfishness and opportunity, not of a change of heart at examining the facts. You can laud a snake for eating the rats in your yard but it is still a snake.

  21. Andrew says

    I think Portman’s support of marriage equality is significant, and the catty tone of the editorial is unproductive. Just as the Reverend Al Sharpton’s support for marriage equality is key in getting black support, Portman’s epiphany will do the same with Evangelical Christians. And like it or not, they are a key voting block.

  22. Brad says

    My oder brother was a neighbor of Rob Portman and spoked to him about his two gay younger brothers. He asked Rob to support Gay Civil Rights. My parents moved to the same street to be near my older brother and his family 10 years ago. My step-father also talked to Rob about supporting Gay Civil Rights. Neither of them made got much of a positive response from their neighbor. I also wrote Mr. Portman over the years asking him to support Gay Civil Rights. I never heard back from any of my notes. I am happy that Senator Portman is finally coming around to support Equality Gay Americans including his son.

  23. David Hearne says

    Some of you need to think about the mnessage you are sending. If they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, then why should they take the more difficult political path?

    BTW, You do the same thing when you act like Democrats in general and Obama in particular can do no wrong. The Democoratic Party didn’t come to support gay rights, to the degree that they do, overnight. It took people participating in a club that would have been just as happy without them.

    Remember the words of Betty Friedan- “Gay men aren’t interested in liberation, they simply want the privilege to which they would otherwise be entitled.”

  24. JohnAGJ says

    Thank you, Ari. This was well written and conveys much of what I think about Portman’s change of heart. I wish nothing but the best for the Senator, his son Will and the rest of the Portman family.

  25. says

    I’ve read that people who know a gay person are much more likely to be in favor of gay rights than someone who does not know any openly gay people. I bet that many others like Portman would reconsider their stance if the closeted men and women in their lives came out.

  26. George says

    Come on. You love anyone who sees it your way. Now Portman has become the second coming. Thank God I could write my response to a much larger audience in a national magazine, away from you self-aggrandizing and seriously deluded clones.

  27. John says

    I totally and completely agree whole heatedly with you. 20 years ago a similar man would have kicked his son out of his family. Things are slowly getting better, cone coming out at a time:)

  28. Francis says

    Sorry, but Rob Portman isn’t some God now that he said “I’m for gay marriage, because my son is gay.” Let’s get real. It’s an insult to legitimate straight allies who have no skin in the game and simply are pro-equality. And straight allies in general, who are actually DOING something for our rights. A lot of gay folk don’t know what a true supporter is, because there are many people who say they support our rights or say they “don’t care” who is gay, yet when push comes to shove they aren’t doing anything to help our community and are apathetic at best. Someone who says they’re for equality but does nothing to advance it and believes companies should fire LGBTQ employees if they want is not a supporter of the community. People act like Rob Portman has become a LGBTQ advocate. He specifically said he wasn’t going to make an issue of it at all.

    If he would speak out against the gay bashing in his party then I’d give him tons of praise. In this situation, his son Will clearly deserves all the credit. Rob deserves respect for making this statement and doing so publicly. But lets temper things and be realistic.

  29. Sandy says

    I want to see more of the Howard Hughes of the internet. (without the fortune) Mr. Andy Towle. Time to stop playing “Wizard of OZ” (1929 version) behind the curtain. 45 in May is not old. You’re still very handsome. You’re the main attraction…. here.

  30. Russ says

    Ari, well written and thoughtful piece. I think the part that’s missing for me is Portman’s overall voting on not just lgbt rights, but all civil liberties. What’s his voting record on abortion and reproductive rights?
    What will make him change his mind on those issues, his daughter coming out as… female?

  31. Jerry says

    To many in our community, Rob Portman’s about face on marriage equality may seem a bit overdue and opportunistic. IT DOESN’T MATTER. The point is, that going forward, he’ll be an ally and no longer an enemy. It remains to be seen how supportive he’ll be, but his change of heart was courageous and carries risks for whatever political future he can continue to hope for as a republican.

  32. Dw says

    Bravo to portman. (Sincerely).
    But his conversion tells us all we need to know about elected Republicans
    They only develop empathy when a subject affects them or their
    Nuclear family.
    At that point it hardly qualifies as empathy. It’s more like selfishness

    That said, I hope every elected or appointed republican in the nation has a gay kid who comes out to them. fast.

  33. JT says

    For all these people praising Portman now, where were you when Cheney said he supported legalizing same sex marriage? Isn’t it practically the same scenario?

    I’ll say thank you for your support, but my praise for both of them stops there. They’ve done so much harm to so many people, it’s very hard to look past.

  34. Phil says

    Sorry, I think he’s a scumbag. He showed no empathy until he had to, when the issue was within his own home. A better measure of character is how a person treats people he has no connection to other than common humanity. Stop treating this jerk like a hero. He’s not.

  35. Rich says

    Harvey Milk had it exactly right, and Ari was gracious enough to credit him. We win when haters realize that their interests as parents outweigh their interests in Leviticus.

    Senator Portman is indeed no hero, but we should accept his surrender with as much good grace as Grant accepted Lee’s at Appomattox.

  36. Brad says

    I’m very glad that Senator Portman supports his son. That’s all it is. I’m not going to sing his praises just because he supports his son. The issue wasn’t important enough to him before his son came out. When it didn’t affect him, discrimination didn’t matter. Bullying people from the political pulpit didn’t matter. Hurting people that were trying to take care of each other didn’t matter. Putting down people he hated didn’t matter until he had a personal stake in the issue, then all of a sudden it mattered. Typical Republican attitude. It’s just like they all want to cut off unemployment benefits, until they or someone they know needs it. He has a lot of apologizing to do not to his son, but to all of us for his years of bashing us. Yeah, your damn right I’m bitter. Decades of being treated like a second class citizen gives me the right to be bitter against these self-serving jerks who suddenly have a revelation. Whatever.

  37. Amir Barzon says

    The type of gay men who don’t accept this man’s support are gay men who care far more about the DEMOCRAT PARTY and ensuring the democrat parties success than they do about marriage equality. I say this as a life long democrat.

    There’s some democrats who use the gay marriage issue as a means to get our votes and money. That’s why they really don’t want to see the republicans embrace us, even if it furthers our movement to attain full equal rights.

    It BENEFITS the democrat party to have republicans passionately against us.

    I’m a democrat but I know that some gay men who put being a democrat before being gay resent the idea of gay rights being ever embraced by the republican party, because they know they may end up losing some LGBT (not me) and they want to secure LGBT votes, even if that means hoping republicans continue being anti gay.

  38. Junior says

    Where’s this hate and level of passion for the DEMOCRATS in Rhode Island and Illinois who are calling gay marriage a “special right” and saying they refuse to support it.

    Where’s your passion against them? In Rhode Island, LGBT have come to be completely complacent of the MANY democrats who vocally oppose gay rights.

  39. Scott Johansen says

    So to the gay people on here going off on this man, who nows supports marriage equality:

    Here’s a question for you:………why should ANY person who was formerly and actively against gay marriage ever come out in support of it when you are saying you won’t accept it?


  40. Micah says

    WTF? He’s entitled to change and evolve, and he evolved for the better.

    I salute him and his son!

    Thank you Will and Rob Portman.

  41. Luke says

    Funny how when democrats come out in support of our rights, after years of oppoosing it and standing against it, they are celebrated as marvels.

    Just admit it: you don’t care about gay marriage, you just use it as a front because you can’t stand the republican party.

  42. Steve-ATL says

    If the Republican platform were to change tomorrow and embrace full gay rights, some people would still say they don’t accept it. Why? because they enjoy seeing the Democratic party have monopoly on our rights, even though that completely puts a damper on progressing our rights. As another poster noted, these people are Democrats first, and advocates for equality second.

    I on the other hand, thank and support ANYONE who believes in my right to marry the love of my life.

  43. David Hearne says

    Francis –

    I think you have a calibration error. One is not either a god or not a god… determined by his position on gay marriage/rights.

    Yes, there are some seemingly devout supporters of gay rights who appear to be doing it because it is the right thing to do. There are also those who support gay rights while also pushing unconstitutional gun control, a de facto open border with Mexico, Tarot cards, and a variety of attacks on the American people and culture.

    Leftist does not mean “pro-gay”. There is ample evidence of that.

  44. EdA says

    I am glad that Senator Portman has come to believe that his own personal son and his own personal son’s fiance should have the right to marry. But he also explicitly takes the position that the Supreme Court should not have taken up Loving and that the right of interracial couples to get married should be dependent on the willingness of the legislatures and courts of the former slave states of the Confederacy to recognize it.

    Not much of an ally.

  45. EdA says

    Sorry, Steve-ATL

    “I on the other hand, thank and support ANYONE who believes in my right to marry the love of my life.”

    And it would be GREAT if Portman did believe in that right. But he doesn’t. He believes in your right to marry whom you want as long as the Georgia legislature agrees. Not quite the same thing.

  46. says

    did you read his comment, however, about how he will NOT be leading a move for marriage equality, because he doesn’t want to “force his opinions onto people?”

  47. says

    While i wholeheartedly agree that when it comes to Republicans we need to lower our standards, the reality is this: we’re celebrating and cheering because a man is doing what all parents should just simply DO, and what (yeah, i’m going there) most liberal-leaning people already do, without expecting to be lauded for it.

    a man ….supports his son. what a stunning thing.
    well, as i said earlier, it’s a stunning thing for a Republican. liberals? they’ve already been supporting marriage equality, even if they don’t have gay children of their own.

    “But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn’t he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don’t happen to touch him personally?”

    from Slate. this is the thing – i’m not saying “this is bad news” it’s just such an indicator of all that is wrong with the GOP that we have people celebrating in the streets and in papers all over the country because finally a republican senator is …what? doing what he’ supposed to do as a father?
    well, GREAT. like i said, when your expectations are that low this seems like a great big deal.

    timeline – son comes out two years ago. dad takes two years to realize that maybe it’s wrong to discriminate against his son? again – i understand that for a conservative and anti-gay man this is rather speedy.

    does this mean i’m a miserable liberal who doesn’t want his support? no. anyone who finally makes the great mental leap from the dark ages is a good thing. but this man has work to do, and for him it will be particularly ironic:
    He needs to now set out to achieve what he previously was unable or unwilling to do – care, for the first time, about the lives and plights of those Who Are Not Related To Him.

    and time for he and other republicans to ask themselves now, not just “what if my kid is gay?”, but “what if my child is transgendered?” – or as other journalists have been saying/joking “what if my child was poor or a minimum-wage making employee?”

    if the GOP only changes their stance when something directly happens within their own family, i think folks need to question their ability to, you know, serve constituents and have any ability to put themselves in another’s shoes when talking to Their People. bluntly: waiting for every GOP leader to have a gay kid that comes out will mean another few decades of slow progress.

    so, portman, glad you’ve grown a heart on this issue. now imagine a great big list of other things your son could have Come Out to you as, and start thinking of a way to get your fellow Republicans on board.

  48. Rob says

    Great piece and thanks for the Milk quotation. I do welcome a new ally, but I also want to see him squirm among his peers as he sees the grasping, selfish politics of the extreme right with new eyes. Basic human decency isn’t something you can dabble in- you either embrace it whole hog or you don’t. Parsing one’s words while stepping gingerly among bigots has to be its own kind of hell.

    Stew in it, Portman.

  49. says

    WaPo –
    “True to his conservatism, Portman believes that approval of same-sex marriage should be made in the states. Nine states, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to wed. And Portman believes that “[j]udicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process as it’s moving in the direction of recognizing marriage for same-sex couples.”
    Despite this media blitz — right smack in the middle of CPAC and little more than a week before the Supreme Court hears two cases on related to gay marriage — don’t look for Portman to be an advocate. According to the Plain Dealer, he told reporters gathered in his office yesterday that “he doesn’t want to force his views on others.”

    yes. he was fine with voting against our rights, and supporting bans against gay marriage, and gays adopting, but now that his son is gay he won’t actively work against us. but will also not be leading the charge FOR us, nor for his son, either.

    because he “doesn’t want to force his opinion on others” – because even having a gay son hasn’t yet clued him into the reality that if his son marries another man, it will not actually be “forcing anything onto anybody else”

    again – sorry to be a debbie downer, but the only way this can be celebratory news is if you have really REALLY low standards for human decency. i support him for becoming an almost-decent man, and an almost-decent father.

    but saying “i support gay marriage now, but will not be forcing my view on others?” – Man, you’ve still got a lot to learn….

  50. Michaelandfred says

    I would give Portman the benefit of the “it took time like it did for many of our parents”…….except none of our parents spent years legislating AGAINST a minority group at every available opportunity. THAT is the difference. “If” Portman’s son had not come out, this Senator would still trying his hardest to take away the rights of the millions of parents of LGBT youth across this country.

    So congratulations to the son for coming out and for the dad reluctantly to find that he can still love the gay son he created, but none of that negates the years of damage he did to others in his exact position who he found not an ounce of empathy for, and strived his hardest to deny and denounce.

    My mother had a horrible time coming to terms with my sexuality….but never, not in a million years, would she have tried to legislate against anyone’s rights. There is the difference.

  51. BamaMan says

    Obama also said he bleives gay marriage is a state issue and is PERFECTLY fine and actually accepts and encourages for Maryland having marriage equality but Mississippi not having it for another 50 years if it so chooses…..


    But because Obama is a minority and democrat, we have to pretend he’s more accepting, even though HE PROPOSES THE SAME THING…marriagee quality being a state issue.

    And I say this as a democrat. The double standard here is so transparent. You all resent marriage equality getting support, because you can’t paint an entire political party against gays, that way you can’t manipulate gays for a vote.

    That’s all this is about.

  52. Milo says

    Where’s the reactionary posts regarding all the Democrats in office today who are passionately against gay rights, speak against gay marriage, and vote against it too?

    I can name a dozen Democrats off the top of my head in Illinois right now.

    Guess what, this man is more advanced than those democrats when it comes to my rights

  53. LazerLight says

    He’s for marriage equality, accepts his son, and has favorably spoken for us. I accept him and thank him.

    I think some of you truly dislike him strictly because of his republican party status, and that’s fine. But say so. Don’t use gay marriage as a fabricated front to pretend that’s the reason for your disdain. If you truly valied marriage equality, you’d celebrate this news and his announcement. I think there’s more than meets the eye with some of you, and marriage equality is not your top priority as much asmaking sure the Democrat party is supreme is your top priority.

  54. J. Melon says

    There’s plenty of democrats who are against the gay community on this site. There’s one poster in particular: Wilberforce….Wilberforce consistently talks negatively about gay men, the gay community, gay everything. Look up Wilberforce and his comment history on this site. He’s not only a Democrat but has worked for the Democrat party in the past, and yet harbors vast resentment about gay people and a lot of homophobia.

    I sometimes feel I’m more libertarian than either republican or democrat. Republicans are vastly bigoted. But some democrats will smile to my face for a vote, then get behind a computer screen and spew homophobia, much like Wilberforce.

  55. Klien says

    @ J. Melon

    While I don’t think democrats are insincere when it comes to gay rights, i will say some of them are flippant about gay rights and when they see other political parties speaking in favor of gay rights, for fear that those parties will attain LGBT votes, you’ll hear some democrats say “well, gay marriage isn’t everything! what re you a single issue voter? who cares he’s for gay marriage, he’s still bad in this and that area” and THAT to me tells me the Democrat himself was never truly for my rights, and used it as a carrot stick to dangle for my vote.

  56. Andy Corennsode says

    This man is not the first person to legislate against gay rights. You can look for a state called RHODE ISLAND for very specific examples of Democrats who have for ages not only legislated against gay rights, but kept their seats. Much to the silence of LGBT.
    Why is that?

  57. R.J says

    On another thread, some of the commentators were calling his perfectly well meaning son names. Called his son who is gay and openly gay and openly for our rights, names, stupid, foolish. So just stop pretending your anger for this guy is about his former stance on gay rights. Just stop. If it was about gay rights you wouldn’t be so angry and spiteful toward his GAY son.
    This is about politics. NOT gay issues, gay rights, and gay marriage.

  58. Ron Sly says

    Wow, I expected way better from Waldman than “don’t be bitter.” I don’t think Harvey Milk, so blithely quoted here would say “Hey, forget how all of that evil stuff makes you feel!” as if it were a sure road to equality. Shame.

  59. says

    The hero here is the coming out process. Without it, Portman would still be supporting a constitutional amendment to undo the legal marriages of thousands of gay couples. Without it, he would be still be in the same anti-gay tent with ALL his Republican Senate colleagues. Will’s bravery in coming out and using his family bonds to force his father to be a decent human being made this happen. And now that it has, it is in our best interests to welcome Sen. Portman and encourage him to walk the walk. Maybe he’ll be able to penetrate the bubble around Republicans that deludes them into thinking marriage equality couldn’t possibly affect anyone or anything that matters to them.

    His position is not the same as Obama’s, as one silly pcommenter suggests. Never was and isn’t now. Portman sees the U.S. Supreme Court as potentional Washington activists who will try to shove marriage equality down the nation’s throat, and he doesn’t like that. Obama sees the SC for what it is–the Supreme Court. Portman has, as far as I know, said nothing about overturning DOMA or about the unconstitionality of Prop 8. In other words, until he starts believing we deserve constitutional rights, he has a long way to go to be a true ally.

    Bravo to Will for starting him along a kinder path.

  60. snt says

    this gayinc 100%, they will accept any past homophobe, that is reallyto support us now with out question.. Gayinc bloggers work to get us to approve of them.. Just sick.. that is why they act us and win. that is way Gayinc has to become a bunch of bullies..

  61. says

    Ari, I agree with you. But I would have liked to see an acknowledgment of how hurtful his previous positions have been to his son and to others. Since he couldn’t bring himself to do that, I hope he at least has apologized to his son.

  62. AdamA says

    This is some pretty sanctimonious writing–your diagnosis of anyone’s issues with Portman as “latent bitterness” is appropriately glib.

  63. James E. Pietrangelo, II says

    Waldman’s selective analysis is showing again. He says that Portman is “neither heroic nor brave,” considering “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.” Yet Waldman constantly calls Obama brave and heroic and a fierce ally for his current support of Gay marriage, despite the fact that Obama opposed Gay marriage for most of his life and administration, personally enforced discrimination against Gays during most of his administration, still enforces discrimination against Gays and doesn’t use his power to enable or enact Gay equality, and only changed his Gay marriage stance because 1) he stood to gain politically, and 2) he was embarrassed that he was on the wrong side of history, which he was.

    Waldman is as bad as the people he criticizes.

  64. sword says

    I don’t care if other people don’t like me…I just don’t want bigoted words, fists, or knives pointed at me.

  65. Brad says

    @Steve Johansen
    In answer to your question: why should ANY person who was formerly and actively against gay marriage ever come out in support of it when you are saying you won’t accept it?
    Answer: Because we ALL deserve respect and civil rights and first-class citizenship just as they enjoy them and it’s the right thing to do, and not because suddenly it’s an issue that affects you or your loved ones.

    Those of you willing to make this man a hero of the gay civil rights movement and calling those who see the truth “bitter” miss the point entirely. When we fall down and kiss the feet of people like this who use our personal civil rights in such a self-serving way without apology for all the hurt they’ve done, we demean ourselves. Demanding an apology from this man is not unreasonable. He didn’t even (and still doesn’t) have the compassion for our community enough to support us without his son. He doesn’t get a pass because he just now only partially supports our civil rights because he’s learned his son is gay. Senator Portman is not an ally until he really and truly supports our movement instead of just supporting it because his son is gay. He only came out in public support 2 YEARS after his son came out as gay and when he was no longer in the political spotlight for VP on the Romney ticket. I’m not impressed with his evolution anymore than I’m impressed with Obama’s less than enthusiastic support.

  66. BobN says

    He supports the right of his son to beg the public to vote for SSM in public referenda.

    Big whoop.

    AFTER his son came out, Portman continued and CONTINUES to oppose ENDA. Now, you might say that’s a libertarian position, but he DOES SUPPORT increased protections for religious objectors to SSM. That is NOT libertarian.

    Portman opposes all gay rights and just hopes that his son will find happiness in a blue state.

    Welcome him with open arms? Heck, I doubt I’d shake his hand.

  67. Gerry says

    I highly recommend everyone watch this video from The Young Turks:

    Yeah, it’s great he is supporting gay marriage now, but as Cenk says… “this is Republican 101″…

  68. DC Arnold says

    Hooray for Portman’s change of heart but it’s his positions other than supporting his son that give me pause. Repugs don’t change their stripes in regards to taking from the poor to give to the rich. I’m with Slate and this is a change of convenience.

  69. jamal49 says

    Mr. Waldman, you got it wrong on this one and let me explain to you as clearly as I can why we DON’T have to welcome Bob Portman.

    I can guarantee you that if Mr. Portman’s son was not gay, Portman would STILL be out there, trolling for votes among the bigoted, evangelical, wing-nut Ohio electorate, using gays and lesbians as bait.

    One gay son cannot excuse the prior conduct of Bob Portman and the hateful and bigoted point of view he espoused so gleefully and willingly to win votes before his alleged “change of heart”.

    REAL change–sincere and worthy of consideration and acceptance–comes from someone who held or holds the views of Bob Portman and changes their mind WITHOUT having to stand on the shoulders of his gay son or daughter.

    Portman is using his child as cover. His sudden revelation is as false, phony and shallow as the bulk of the writing you throw up here on TowleRoad.

  70. says

    i think a frustration is that after his many years of anti-gay work, he’s not now saying “now i’m gonna be PRO-EQUALITY” – stating he won’t be leading a movement for marriage equality….i mean, come ON.

    he doesn’t want to “force his opinions onto others” – meaning, what? he accepts his son, but won’t….uh… “inflict his son onto straight people”, or something?

    between Santorum’s kids, Palin’s kids, Romney’s kids AND grandkids, Brian Brown’s eight kids, and many more anti-gay families….there are INDEED more gay kids. closeted and likely terrified.

    i think criticism is fair – after Portman’s years of work against LGBT Equality his stance now seems to be “accepting, but neutral” – but neutrality is not the opposite of war; we need active work to be done to undo the culture he has contributed to that makes life for LGBT people, his own son included, more difficult.

  71. Caliban says

    I really don’t think criticism of Rob Portman really “misses the point.” One can be glad that he changed his mind AND also be critical of the fact that Republicans have no empathy to spare until it’s about THEM, someone in THEIR family.

    Salon has a good article about this, Rob Portman and the Politics of Narcissism.

    And it’s not only about gay rights. Sarah Palin is used as one example, promoting cuts in social services across the board, except in ONE area, spending for children with disabilities like her own son with Downs Syndrome.

    Oh, it effects HER so suddenly that social spending is a good thing!

    So while I’m glad that Rob Portman is now on board with at least some gay rights, I reserve the right to both notice and comment on the fact that this turnabout only came about essentially due to self interest. And I don’t appreciate being told HOW to think about something, that I’m “missing the point.” No, from my POV it’s you who is willing to overlook what rather obvious for reasons (I assume) of political expediency. That’s your right, but it’s also the right of others to see it differently.


  72. sfbob says

    Overall I have mixed feelings. If Portman’s statements are backed up by actual support, both at the state and federal level, than that is appreciated.

    Politics, like so much of life, is about being able to get along with–and even sometimes make common cause with–people we otherwise despise. It would be a good thing overall if Portman were to make some acknowledgement, as Ken Mehlman did, of the damage his prior political actions have caused to real people (most of whom happened not to be members of his family).

    I’ve been given to understand, meanwhile, that Portman STILL does not support ENDA. If that’s wrong, I’d like to know that but if it’s true then his support will continue to be of only limited value.

  73. ND says

    Wow….lot of hate in these comments. Lot of hate that will hurt no one other than the one spewing it.