An Ohio group pushing for gay marriage in the state is applauding Senator Rob Portman's announcement he now supports gay marriage.
The Republican U.S. Senator made the announcement late Thursday, saying he changed his stance on the controversial issue when he learned his son is gay. Portman told reporters in Washington his views began changing in 2011 when his college-age son Will told his parents he was gay.
The group FreedomOhio, which is heading a campaign to bring a gay marraige ammendment to voters issued a statement Friday thanking Portman for endorsing marriage equality. The group's founder, Ian James said "The honorable U.S. Sen. Portman is the first Republican member of the United States Senate to endorse the freedom to marry, but we believe he will not be the last."
"We are moved by the love and support U.S. Sen. Portman and his wife are showing their son," James said. "We appreciate the fact that the Senator wants his son to be able to marry and form a family to find the same happiness and security as his parents."
Portman also received support Friday from Ohio's Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown who issued a statement saying he's glad to see Portman change his views. Brown said he looks forward to working with Portman to insure all Americans can get married regardless of who they love or where they live.
As a member of the House in 1996, Portman had voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Brown voted against the act while he was a member of the U.S. House.
Portman disclosed his change of heart in interviews with several Ohio newspapers and CNN. In an op-ed published Friday in The Columbus Dispatch, he said the decision came after a lot of thought. "I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get married," he wrote.
Portman his son told his parents he was gay and that it wasn't a choice but "part of who he was." Portman said he and his wife, Jane, were very surprised but also supportive. He said it prompted him to reconsider gay marriage from a different perspective, that of a father who wants all three of his children to have happy lives with people they love.
He said he talked to his pastor and to people on both sides of the gay marriage issue, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is opposed to gay marriage, and former Vice President Dick Cheney, who supports it. Cheney's daughter is a lesbian. Portman told reporters Thursday that his previous views on marriage were rooted in his Methodist faith. "Ultimately, for me, it came down to the Bible's overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God," he wrote.
The well-known Ohio conservative, a former U.S. trade representative and White House budget chief, was considered but not chosen as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate. Portman told the newspapers Romney was informed about Will's sexuality last year. Portman's reversal comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments this month in a challenge to a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. Portman said he would like Congress to repeal the provision of the DOMA that bans federal recognition of gay marriage, though he still supports the part of the law that says states should not be forced to recognize such marriages.
Local 12 News and Local 12.com will continue to follow this story throughout the day and Rich Jaffe will have more on fallout from the announcement on Local 12 News Live at 6:00pm.