Republican Senator Portman Now Backs Same-Sex Marriage

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who was on Mitt Romney’s short list as a potential vice presidential nominee in 2012, has reversed his long-held position opposing same-sex marriage, he wrote in a column published today in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.

“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married,” Portman wrote.

Two years ago, he said, his son Will, then a freshman at Yale University, told Portman and his wife, Jane, that he was gay.

“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,” Portman wrote. “Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”

As a U.S. House member, Portman voted for the Defense of Marriage Act -- the 1996 law that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman -- and a 1999 bill to prohibit same- sex couples in the District of Columbia from adopting. He also supported the idea of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages.

Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, and his wife Jane pose for a portrait during the 35th annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington D.C.. Senator Portman has recently reversed his opposition to gay marriage. Close

U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, and his wife Jane pose for a portrait... Read More

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Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, and his wife Jane pose for a portrait during the 35th annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington D.C.. Senator Portman has recently reversed his opposition to gay marriage.

Michigan Protest

In 2011, his opposition to gay rights led to a protest by a group of graduates of the University of Michigan law school who walked out of his commencement address after circulating a petition that his invitation to speak be withdrawn because of his views. He told CNN in an interview broadcast this morning that at that time he knew his son was gay.

In an interview with the Columbus paper, Portman said he sought advice last weekend from former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is gay. “Do the right thing. Follow your heart,’” he said Cheney told him.

In a Twitter message today, Will Portman wrote “Especially proud of my dad today” and included a link to the Columbus Dispatch column.

Portman told CNN that even though he has known about his son’s sexual orientation for two years, he was making the announcement now for two reasons: He has only recently gotten comfortable with his decision to shift his position, and he knew he would probably be asked about his opinion on two cases related to same-sex marriage that are being argued before the Supreme Court at the end of the month.

“I thought it was the right time to let folks know where I stand so there’s no confusion, so I would be clear about it,” he said.

He also said that Romney’s staff was aware of his son’s sexual orientation when he was being considered as the former Massachusetts governor’s running mate and that he was told it played no consideration in him being passed over as the nominee in favor of Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul Ryan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steve Walsh in Washington at swalsh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo5@bloomberg.net

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