If Will hadn't come out, or if he'd been as straight as Nebraska highway, Portman wouldn't have cared about the sons and daughters and brothers and sisters of all the other Dads who love them and want them to have the same opportunities? It's not just the implied notion that discrimination is OK unless it inconveniences Sunday dinner with the Portmans. It's also the relentless banality through which even "decent" Republicans struggle to come to simple humanity. Does any group of people have dark nights of the soul that are so endlessly boring and transparently insincere? It's like listening to Kierkegaard sell flatware. I'm glad there's another vote for marriage equality here. I'm also glad I didn't have to listen to the full explanation behind it.
The decision by the Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, to announce his support for same-sex marriage may come to be seen as a watershed moment for gay rights advocates. Mr. Portman’s announcement, which he said he made in part because his son is gay, has so far yielded relatively little pushback from Republicans on blogs and social media, or from other Republican office-holders. Instead, gay rights advocates are increasingly finding support from influential Republicans.
But the rank and file of the Republican Party may be different, and the polling suggests that they have largely not changed their views on same-sex marriage.
According to Pew Research polls conducted each year, support for same-sex marriage has increased to 62 percent from 43 percent among Democrats since 2001. Among independent voters, support has risen to 52 percent from 43 percent over the same period. However, only 25 percent of Republican voters supported same-sex marriage in Pew’s poll last year, barely changed from 21 percent in 2001.
Rob Portman is a good father for changing his view on this issue so that he may support the rights of his son. But the fact that he was only able to feel empathy for the plight of gay people in this country -- a plight that he for decades actively contributed to based on his voting record -- only after the issue directly affected him, is definitive proof that he is an unfit politician.
Senator Portman wants to make this country a better place for his college-aged son, but as recently as 2011, he wasn't moved to reconsider his views when hundreds of students at the University of Michigan actively protested his commencement speech because of his long history of opposing gay marriage.
As a high-serving member in a representative democracy, Mr. Portman shouldn't have to be personally inspired in order to see an issue from a perspective other than his own.
... "We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people's lives," Portman wrote in his opinion piece.
That's a very interesting statement from a man with a vehement anti-abortion record and who has a strong anti-civil rights voting record (as dictated by the ACLU).
Are both these things grounded in Portman's inability to view issues from a broader perspective?
It's a troubling thought, especially considering his respected stature in Congress.
Would he be against the Affordable Care Act if a close friend or family member had lost their life savings attempting to pay for cancer treatment?
Would he have been in favor of invading Iraq in 2002 and then opposed a timetable for troop withdrawal in 2010 if one of his sons was on the front lines?
My challenge to Senator Portman is this: Sit down a truly evaluate every belief you hold and determine why you hold is because your decisions are much bigger than you.
FCKH8.com, an equal rights organization, first posted the touching letter to Facebook on Friday morning. In the note, the father explains he overheard his son, Nate, talking on the phone about coming out. But the father tells him there is no need -- he already knew, and he never cared.
Rob Portman on Civil Rights
Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)
Rated 7% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record. (Dec 2002)
Supports Amendment to prevent same sex marriage. (Aug 2010)
The takeaway is that people should be making the decision because it affects everyone, not just themselves or the people they know.
My personal views on the subject of marriage have been shaped by my own experience, tradition and upbringing. But as governor of New Hampshire, I recognize that I have a responsibility to consider this issue through a broader lens. I have heard, and I understand, the very real feelings of same-sex couples that a separate system is not an equal system (and that the current civil union law, passed in 2007, is not adequate.)
I’ve noticed this thing quite a lot in American life lately — this sort of cramped vision of altruism in which it’s considered perfectly acceptable to support only those causes that are directly good for you and yours. We even have a tendency to view it as “inauthentic” when people support policies that aren’t in their self-interest — when a rich man supports higher taxes on the rich, he’s somehow seen as strange, and probably a hypocrite.
Needless to say, this is all wrong. Political virtue consists in standing for what’s right, even — or indeed especially — when it doesn’t redound to your own benefit. Someone should ask Portman why he didn’t take a stand for, you know, other people’s children.
“We must continue to speak out and 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 they indeed are your friends — you must tell your neighbors, you must tell the people you work with, you must tell the people in the stores you shop in, and once they realize that we are indeed their children and that 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.”
Question: How many of you who are jumping on this opportunity to ream this guy today were actually, really aware of who he was and what he was doing over the years against marriage equality and were actively protesting it back then, when it mattered? Yeah, right. The one or two of you who were don't really need to respond.
Rob Portman doesn't have a son with a pre-existing medical condition who's locked out of the health insurance market. Rob Portman doesn't have a son engaged in peasant agriculture whose livelihood is likely to be wiped out by climate change. Rob Portman doesn't have a son who'll be malnourished if SNAP benefits are cut. So Rob Portman doesn't care.
It's a great strength of the movement for gay political equality that lots of important and influential people happen to have gay children. That obviously does change people's thinking. And good for them.
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? Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don't just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son's eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn't that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray? That, it seems to me, would be a pretty remarkable coincidence. The great challenge for a senator isn't to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It's to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don't have direct access to the corridors of power.
Senators basically never have poor kids. That's something members of Congress should think about. Especially members of Congress who know personally that realizing an issue affects their own children changes their thinking.
Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker and the list goes on and on
if, as many have argued, it's "selfish" and "narcissitic" for Portman to switch his gay marriage view because he realized the effect discrimination will have on his gay son (and I don't disagree with that characterization), then the same must be true of others who attributed their switch on gay marriage to realizing that discrimination harms gay people close to them, as Obama did when explaining his switch.
...[T]here’s at least one difference between Portman and Obama on this specific issue: Portman did it because changing his position will lead to a clear and direct personal gain–his actual gay son might get an real benefit from the state based on his father’s position. As far as we know, Obama’s change in position gives him no such benefit. For you freshman logic fans, that’s the fallacy of equivocation. Glenn’s trying to say that one of Obama’s stated reasons (his empathy for friends and staff who are gay) is the same thing as Portman’s (a real parental interest in the outcome of the debate).
That doesn’t invalidate Glenn’s whole argument–as I said above, he’s mostly right that Portman and Obama engaged in political calculation. But Portman’s political calculation was essentially random–lighting struck in the form of a gay son, so Portman changed one single position, while he holds on to his others. Obama has been slowly marching towards gay rights, perhaps too slowly, but his movement is based on a set of coherent, consistent political beliefs that might not be radical enough for Glenn but are certainly going to do more for gay rights than sitting around waiting for more lightning strikes.
"In another case in the annals of conservative 'adaptation' to yesterday's liberal innovation, Ohio Republican senator Rob Portman has just announced that he now supports faux marriage. The change was motivated, he said, by his son having come out to him and his wife as a homosexual. Well, it's a good thing his son didn't announce that he was involved in bestiality. Talk about a pandering parent."
What recent event is going to be more defining for the Republican Party, Sen. Rob Portman’s about-face on gay marriage or the strident rhetoric of the Conservative Political Action Conference? The GOP ought to pray it’s the former and hope it keeps the party’s empathy gap from turning into the Grand Canyon.
... The report also notes a growing generational divide on the issue of gay rights, calling the issue a "gateway" for young voters deciding whether to align with the GOP.
For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view. Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.
If we believe our policies are the best ones to improve the lives of the American people, all the American people, our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms and we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters.
A majority of Americans now approve of gay marriage for two fairly simple reasons. First, most Americans understand marriage as symbolic affirmation of a dissolvable commitment between consenting adults for purposes of emotional gratification. Second, an increasing number of Americans have come to know gay people in their own lives as beloved relatives, respected colleagues, or honored authorities rather than icons of flamboyance or specters of perversion. If you understand marriage in this sense, which has been socially dominant for decades, there is no plausible argument for denying it to gay individuals one loves and respects. As Rob Portman has discovered, the rest is reasoning from the particular to the general.
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