Republican Sen. Rob Portman said Thursday that he now supports gay marriage -- a
surprise turnabout on a hot-button social issue, sparked by a deeply personal reflection that began two years ago after Portman's son, Will, told him that he is gay.
"It's a change of heart from the position of a father," Portman told three Ohio reporters on Thursday during a 45-minute interview in his office. "I think we should be allowing gay couples the joy and stability of marriage."
Portman's endorsement of gay marriage makes him the only sitting Republican senator to hold that position. It comes at a time when public attitudes are shifting quickly on the issue, and more and more states are sanctioning gay marriage.
Ohio's junior senator outlined his position in the interview, and in an op-ed that appears today in the Columbus Dispatch.
Portman said his own evolution on the issue began in 2011, when Will, then a freshman at Yale University, made a stunning revelation.
"Will ... came to Jane and me and announced that he was gay, that it was not a choice. It was who he is and he had been that way since he could remember," Portman recalled of the conversation. "Jane and I were both surprised, very surprised, but also very supportive of him.
"Our reaction was not about policy or positions. It was about him as a son and letting him know we were 110% supportive of him."
His son's homosexuality "allowed me to think about this issue from a new perspective, and that's as a dad who loves his son a lot," Portman said. He said he wants Will to have the same chance at an enduring relationship, "like Jane and I have had for over 26 years."
Portman -- who previously said marriage should only be between a man and a woman -- said it took him "awhile" to "get comfortable" supporting gay marriage.
Portman was among those who, as a member of the House in 1996, voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. It also says states can't be forced to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state. Portman also voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage when he was in the House.
On Thursday, Portman said he would like to see Congress repeal the provision of DOMA that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage, although he still supports the part of the law that says states should not be forced to recognize same-sex marriages.
Sen. Portman says his son inspired him to rethink his views.
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