So after two years and much prayer, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has decided to change his mind regarding the issue of gay marriage.
You see, two years ago Senator Portman’s son, who is now a junior at Yale, informed his family that he was gay. The good Senator spent those two years reflecting, speaking with religious leaders and other politicians, like Dick Cheney, who also have gay children. The result is one more member of the Senate willing to support gay marriage.
But, this is a man who co-sponsored DOMA, who, in 1999, voted for an amendment to bar gay couples in Washington D.C. from adopting children. I suppose I should be thankful and welcome him to the party. Better late than never, right?
Yet I can’t rinse the taste this flip-flop leaves out of my mouth. Now, I’m not naive. I know politicians flip-flop all the time. Some genuinely change their minds about an issue. Some change their positions out of political expediency.
And, though, in this instance, no one can accuse Senator Portman of political expediency, his change of heart is entirely parochial. It is based strictly on how the issue impacts him and his family. Yet what he fails to recognize, or at least has yet, as far as I am aware, acknowledge, is that the issue impacts numerous other families and that it has impacted them for years. It impacted those families in 1996 when he supported DOMA and it impacted them in 1999, when he opposed gay adoption, and it impacted them last year, when he continued to oppose full recognition of gay marriage.
Perhaps I have too much Kant in me, but one’s measure for what is right and what is wrong should not be based on how such a determination would impact one personally. Something is either right for everyone or wrong for everyone. You should not, for most of your life, believe a thing is wrong because you don’t benefit from it and then change your mind because it turns out you do.
I would not want members of the Senate voting on gun control legislation based solely on whether they had known someone who was shot (even if that person may have been a fellow member of Congress). I do not want members of the Senate voting on new banking regulations based solely on whether they know someone whose house was once foreclosed on. Gun control either makes sense as a measure that balances 2nd amendment freedoms with the security of all of our citizens, or it doesn’t. Banking regulations either make sense as a means to balance economic growth with long-term economic stability, or they don’t.
It will be interesting to see whether Senator Portman pays a political price for his newfound embrace of gay marriage in a Republican primary down the road. In the meantime, if he would like me to return the embrace, he needs to apologize to gay and lesbian couples across the country to whose plight he was blind simply because he lacked, all these years, basic human empathy.
Photo: AP File/J. Scott Applewhite