Like many conservatives before him, Rob Portman recently decided to flip-flop on an important social issue as soon as it began to directly impact him.
A leading Republican voice and rumored finalist to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, Portman made headlines this week when he reversed his longstanding opposition to gay marriage.
"I'm announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about that has to do with gay couples' opportunity to marry," Portman told CNN.
Why did the prominent Ohio senator just now realize that ‘a lot of people feel strongly’ about this issue? Apparently because, finally, after all these years, Portman came across a gay person he had to speak with for more than 10 minutes.
Portman’s 21-year-old son, Will, came out of the closet (fairly) recently.
"I've come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I've had for over 26 years. That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay," said Portman.
Will reportedly told his parents that he was gay two years ago. Why did his father’s stance on homosexuality evolve just now? Probably because he was a serious contender to be Romney’s veep pick and didn't know how the announcement would go over with the base.
"I told Mitt Romney everything," said Portman. "That process is, intrusive would be one way to put it. But, no, yeah, I told him everything."
The Ohio senator admitted that he sought out the advice of Dick Cheney, another prominent Republican figure with a gay child, for advice on how to handle this situation.
"He was a good person to talk to because he also was surprised by the news, in that case, you know, his wonderful daughter, who he loves very much. And it forced him to re-think the issue too, and over time, he changed his view on it," said Portman.
"I followed his advice. You know, I followed my heart," he added.
The reaction to Portman coming out about his son coming out has been mixed, but this point by Slate's Matt Yglesias encapsulates it pretty well:
Glad Rob Portman’s for marriage equality, but wish conservatives could muster empathy for problems that don’t directly affect their family.
— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 15, 2013