Portman comes out for gay marriage, reveals son is gay

(FOX19) - Ohio Senator Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park) has dropped his opposition to gay marriage, in part because his own son is gay.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Portman told the network "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."

Senator Portman told the network his son Will came out to him and his wife a couple years ago.  He made this public with his son's permission. He also told CNN he had consulted with former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement on Friday that he's glad to see Portman's change in views. He says he looks forward to working with him to ensure that all Americans can get married regardless of who they love or where they live.

"He's a true leader as someone who has courage and I appreciate that," Chris Seelbach said.

Seelbach, Cincinnati's first openly gay councilman, felt Portman's announcement was a game-changer and he is not alone. Supporters of Freedom Ohio, a group working to get an amendment passed that would allow gay couples to marry praised Portman.

"The fact that such a prominent, well-respected Republican senator said this from Ohio, not only from Ohio but nationally I think says a lot," Mike Moroski, a Freedom Ohio supporter and candidate for Cincinnati City Council said.

After 20 years of working with the senator, Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values says Portman called him Thursday night to tell him where he stood.

"To switch sides on a principal issue disturbs me more than anything else," Burress said. "He has to consider whether or not he needs to be a part of the Republican Party or not. The national Republican Party platform supports marriage between one man and one woman."

"I think every time the senator's name comes up for a position or some kind or another, elected or non-elected they won't deliver the little bio without slipping this in. it's just the nature of the issue," said Dr. Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier. "But I think it becomes less and less important as time goes on."

Portman had not been outspoken on same-sex marriage, but had voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act. When 100 students walked out at the 2011 law school graduation at the University of Michigan in protest of his position, it was after his son had come out to him.

The chairman of the Ohio Republican Party says the state GOP will continue to stand behind Portman. Chairman Bob Bennett acknowledged Friday that there would be Republicans who will disagree with Portman's decision. But Bennett said he respects the senator's right to make up his own mind.

Asked whether Portman's announcement would change the level of financial support or help from the state Republican Party, Bennett said, "Absolutely not."

Portman was unavailable Friday for comment. An office spokesperson told FOX19 he was away on a kayaking and biking trip with his boys.

On Friday, Portman's son tweeted: '@wdportman: Especially proud of my dad today'

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