Senator Rob Portman Reveals He Has a Gay Son, Now Supports Same-Sex Marriage

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Sen. Rob Portman. Photo: Brendan Hoffman/2012 Getty Images

Ohio Senator Rob Portman, previously known as the perpetual bridesmaid of the GOP vice presidential race and a spot-on Obama impersonator, has made a new name for himself as the only current Republican member of the Senate to endorse gay marriage. Portman made the revelation to CNN and several Ohio newspapers on Thursday, saying he began to reconsider the issue two years ago when his son Will, now a 21-year-old Yale junior, announced that he's gay. "It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective," said Portman. "That's of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years."

Portman explained that when Will first came out to him and his wife they were "very supportive of him," and wanted him to “know we were 100 percent supportive and we love him. He’s an amazing young man.” Just two months later when Portman spoke at the University of Michigan Law School's graduation, a group of students walked out to protest his "openly hostile" position on gay rights. However, he only came around on the issue after another two years of consulting with clergy members, the Bible, and Dick Cheney. He says he talked with the most high-ranking Republican supporter of same-sex marriage, whose daughter is gay, last weekend. Cheney advised him to "do the right thing, follow your heart."

The senator added that he "told Mitt Romney everything" when he was being vetted to be his running mate, and having a gay son wasn't a dealbreaker. When CNN asked how he knew that, Portman said, "Well, because they told me."

Portman said he decided to come forward now because he anticipates that he'll be getting questions from reporters about the same-sex marriage cases the Supreme Court is considering later this month. Portman wants to see DOMA repealed and said he'd support overturning Ohio's state ban on same-sex marriage if a referendum is put before voters. The senator has never been outspoken on the issue, but in Congress he's voted for DOMA and a bill prohibiting gay couples in Washington, D.C. from adopting children. Portman said he doesn't plan to "take a leadership role" if Ohio reconsiders gay marriage, and won't be signing any legal briefs on the Supreme Court cases, explaining that economic issues have always been his priority. "You know, what happened to me is really personal," he told CNN. "I mean, I hadn't thought a lot about this issue. Again, my focus has been on other issues over my public policy career."