Written by Emily Mullins
United Church of Christ LGBT advocates applaud Republican Senator Rob Portman's announcement that he is now a supporter of marriage equality. The Ohio senator said he has changed his views and now supports the right for same-sex couples to marry because his son, Will, is gay.
"I'm proud of Sen. Rob Portman who announced his support for the freedom to marry," said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC's executive and minister for LGBT concerns. "It is a courageous stand in this political climate and another sign of the tide that continues to turn for marriage equality.
"Sen. Portman gave witness to the significance of relationships by stating that his son, who is gay, should be able to enjoy the freedom to marry," Schuenemeyer continues. "He is right, and I hope Sen. Portman will join us in Ohio and across the country to make sure everyone has the freedom to marry the person they love."
Portman said that his former views on marriage equality had stemmed from his Methodist faith, and he has a long track record of voting against same-sex marriage legislation. In 1996, as a member of the House of Representatives, he voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. In 1999, he voted against allowing gay couples in Washington, D.C. to adopt children. He has also shown support for the idea of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages.
Portman had been on the short list of Mitt Romney's potential vice president nominees before Rep. Paul Ryan was selected.
"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," Portman wrote in a Columbus Dispatch column. "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."
The Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin also applauds Portman's announcement, and believes it's an important step forward.
"Like countless dads across the country, Sen. Portman has made the basic and courageous choice to put parenting before politics. When it comes to marriage equality, all Americans are on the same journey toward recognizing our common humanity. But while eight in 10 Americans know a gay or lesbian person, it still takes unique courage to speak out publicly for equality. We are very grateful to Sen. Portman for his virtuous stand in support of this civil rights cause."
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
The United Church of Christ, headquartered in Cleveland, has a long history of affirming and working for equal rights for LGBTQ persons. At its 2005 biennial General Synod –– the main deliberative body of the UCC –– the denomination passed a resolution affirming equal marriage rights for all couples, regardless of gender.