“You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.” ~ Harvey Milk, “That’s What America Is.” Speech given on Gay Freedom Day (June 25, 1978) in San Francisco.
One of Harvey Milk’s central messages was the importance of coming out. Rob Portman, U.S. Senator from Ohio, changed his views about LGBTQ people after his son Will came out to him. Portman is a Republican legislator who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and against adoption rights for same-sex couples in the District of Columbia.
“Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.”
Portman says that his former position on marriage equality was rooted in his faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. “I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister.”
Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.
At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.
I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God…
I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples. As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage.
- Op-ed: What All of Us Should Learn From Rob Portman’s Son, The Advocate
- PORTMAN: Coming Out, Yale Daily News
- RNC chair praises Portman as GOP report calls for gay inclusion, Metro Weekly
- Sen. Portman and the ‘friends and family effect’ on same-sex marriage, Washington Post