Saturday, March 16, 2013

All In The Family

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) has changed his views on marriage equality because he has a gay son.

“I’m announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about,” Portman said. “It has to do with gay couples’ opportunity to marry. And during my career in the House and also last couple years here in the Senate, you know, I’ve taken a position against gay marriage, rooted in part in my faith and my faith tradition. And had a very personal experience, which is my son came to Jane, my wife, and I, told us that he was gay and that it was not a choice and that, you know he, that’s just part of who he is, and he’d been that way ever since he could remember.”

Portman said his son’s revelation led him to drop his opposition to same-sex marriage. “And that launched an interesting process for me, which was kind of rethinking my position,” he said. “You know, talking to my pastor and other religious leaders and going through a process of, at the end, changing my position on the issue. I now believe people ought to have the right to get married.”

I have heard a number of my friends and fellow bloggers react to this news with a bit of cynicism, including speculation that since Will Portman came out to his parents two years ago, it’s taken the senator a pretty long time to come to terms with it and announce it publicly, especially since he was on the short list of VP candidates for Mitt Romney last year.

But in the family dynamic, these things do take time and parents — and the child — realize that understanding it isn’t something that happens overnight.  I know in my own situation that while I never doubted that my parents loved me no matter what, it took a little getting used to when I introduced them to Allen and we started coming to family gatherings the same way my siblings did with their spouses.  That’s just the way people are.

I respect Mr. Portman for his forthrightness in saying that it took a personal revelation to get him to change his mind.  It’s easy to be against something in the abstract but difficult to turn into a bumper sticker when it touches you: abortion is murder until your 16 year old daughter breaks the news, and God hates gays until your son sits you down and tells you that his roommate isn’t really just a guy who helps with the rent.  That’s when reality trumps the talking points.

My only wish is that it didn’t take a personal family experience to learn that.

6 barks and woofs on “All In The Family

  1. Still . . . there’s a problem of imagination and empathy, of an ability to how it might be to be the “other”. I find it hard to congratulate someone who only sees the light when it penetrates their own sphere, their own family, the life of their own child. This is why we marvel at the stupidity of those many self-righteous “finger pointers” who claim god hates the sinner and define sin as the way some others love or others who choose to deal with a crisis in their/her life in a way she feels she must. How do they know how it is? They don’t.

  2. Well we’re winning them over one at a time. The scales are tipping in our favor. btw, I have never told my family about my situation; except for my oldest daughter! Guess it is none of their business. That may be the reason my so called mother hates me so!

  3. I’m with Faithful Correspondent. In fact, I would take it further. Portman has shown that he has at best limited empathy. I associate this most with the Cheneys. Is there any question that they would be fiercely anti-gay if it weren’t for their daughter? I’m glad to have an ally, but these single issue allies don’t offer much to the cause. And they add nothing at all to The Cause (equal rights, income equality).

  4. My only wish is that it didn’t take a personal family experience to learn that.

    There are days I think that for most of the Reichwing, that’s the only way for them to learn these things. Count me in with FC and Frank: I’m not especially impressed by a Conservatist pol who thought that second-class citizenry was perfectly acceptable for Those people until he learned one of his own offspring was included. Portman rates a BTYFO but not much more than that – though I’m a lot less inclined to cross the street rather than run into him than I was only a week or so ago.

    I have no problem with Portman taking two years from discovering he has a gay child to rethink his stance on SSM. I have a real problem with his two decades in politics, most of that spent representing the people, and failing to allow that some of those people were being hurt by his ignorance and bigotry – and that it took a direct, personal experience for him to realise that just maybe he might not have been doing the right thing when the evidence has been plain in his district and state for at least that long.

    I will think a lot better of these volk when they come up with a believable excuse for carrying on as they did while there were people losing their jobs and careers, their homes, their health and their lives not so many years ago. Does having an LGBT child make them realise that, not only are their policies hurting their own family, but that they’ve hurt other families far more in their careers? Does admitting that they might have been wrong on certain specific items absolve them of years of actively enabling those who let LGBT folks be descriminated against and allowed to suffer for no better reason than we were Those people? Whatever they come up with to answer this had better be more than “well, it suddenly impacted my family” as Portman admits: after all, they’re supposedly in politics to represent the people and not just the folks that funded their campaigns, and for decades they’ve been failing pretty impressively when it comes to even so much as recognizing that LGBT folk do indeed form part of their constituencies.

  5. “My only wish is that it didn’t take a personal family experience to learn that.”

    It doesn’t. I don’t know anyone in my extended family who is LGBTQ. That doesn’t mean there isn’t someone, only that they’re not out to me. As many of my relatives are country folk, I suspect it would be difficult for them to come out [/broad_generalization]. To learn compassion for gays requires, first and foremost, to learn compassion for people, people both the same as and different from oneself.

    Times are changing. I expect to see, probably within my lifetime (I’m in my mid-60s) and certainly within yours, Bobby, an America in which all but the most extreme (religious?) nut-jobs are tolerant of gays. And if you can’t have love, tolerance is at least a lot better than hostility.

  6. It’s the same old – same old for the Republicans. If you do it or need it that makes it bad, bad, the work of the devil and un-American (Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Voting Rights, access to education, laws and/or regulations that make home ownership at least a possibility, safe working conditions – you name it). If they do it, need it, or want it… well, that’s different. What makes it different is because it is THEM. (Clinton’s impeachment and that nasty old Henry Hyde puffing up in outrage when his 40+ year history of infidelity was pointed out, Livingston from La willing to pursue the impeachment until the pornographer Flint assured him that his (Livingston’s) own affairs would be made public, John McCain when it was pointed out that he, his children, and the previous two generations of his family had enjoyed only government sponsored health insurance, and it goes on and on.)

    I don’t believe that Republicans lack imagination; I believe that they just don’t give a damn unless it touches them or theirs.

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