The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Conservative Senator Rob Portman Now Supports Gay Marriage Because His Son Is Gay

By Jen Chung in News on Mar 15, 2013 1:20PM

Rob Portman and Mitt Romney during a campaign stop in Ohio last fall (Getty Images)

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was on Mitt Romney's VP shortlist last year, has published an op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch stating that he now supports same-sex marriage—because his son is gay. He writes, "I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples. As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage."

Portman admits, "That isn’t how I’ve always felt. As a congressman, and more recently as a senator, I opposed marriage for same-sex couples."

Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.

At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.

I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God...

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.

One way to look at it is that gay couples’ desire to marry doesn't amount to a threat but rather a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution.

Portman's son is pretty excited:

In an interview with CNN, Portman said that he told Romney's VP vetting team that his son was gay, "I told Mitt Romney everything. That process is, intrusive would be one way to put it. But, no, yeah, I told him everything." Portman added that his son's sexuality wasn't the deal-breaker—at least that's what Romney's team said.

Portman did reach out to a prominent Republican whose child is also gay: Former Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney told him, "Follow your heart," and Portman said, "He was a good person to talk to because he also was surprised by the news, in that case, you know, his wonderful daughter, who he loves very much. And it forced him to re-think the issue too, and over time, he changed his view on it."