Dear Senator Portman:
Congratulations on joining the right side of history.
Your recent support of same-sex marriage comes after earlier co-sponsoring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) while a Congressman in the U.S. House. Apparently your son coming out as gay to you and your wife two years ago triggered your recent change of heart. You’re quoted as saying, “It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have – to have a relationship like Jane (your wife) and I have had for over 26 years.”
While I don’t want to diminish the significance of having the support of someone like you, a Republican in the Senate whose historic record on gay rights has been called “openly hostile,” forgive me if I don’t join the “Portman as Gay Ally Bandwagon.”
There are millions of Dads and Moms out there who love their gay sons and lesbian daughters a lot. No doubt, throughout your political career, some of them tried to talk with you – to tell you why your support of DOMA hurt their children. When you voted to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting children, I’m sure you heard from parents who told you that your actions were hurting both their children and grandchildren. Couldn’t you see the love that those parents had for their children?
There are those who say that critics like me are being too hard on you. They cite President Obama as a man whose position on gay marriage has also evolved over time. But Senator, there is a difference between your evolution and other politicians’ changed positions. You couldn’t do the right thing until it affected you and your family directly. That is what concerns me.
Every day, you make decisions for your constituents in Ohio. How you vote in the Senate impacts millions of other lives. You shouldn’t need to be directly affected by something before doing the right thing. It should be enough to just listen to other people’s stories and to believe them. Maybe you will from now on.
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Portman's journey to accept same-sex marriage, and ours, will take time. Be patient. Be welcoming. Be kind.