GOP Senator With Gay Son Embraces Marriage Equality. Good News Or Too Little, Too Late?

473px-Rob_Portman,_official_portrait,_112th_CongressRepublican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio has come out in favor of marriage equality, the first sitting GOP senator to do so.

Portman, once considered for Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential slot, changed his view after his son, Will, came out in 2011.

Portman laid out his feelings in an op-ep in the Columbus Dispatch:

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.

That isn’t how I’ve always felt. As a congressman, and more recently as a senator, I opposed marriage for same-sex couples. Then something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way.

Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.

At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.

We’re thrilled that a Republican senator has bucked the party line and share what is obviously a personal story. But we can forget that this is the guy who was a co-sponsor of the federal ban on same-sex marriage and voted to prevent same-sex couples in Washington, DC, from adopting children

What if his son wasn’t gay—or hadn’t come out to him? Why did he wait two years—two very momentous years for the LGBT movement—to announce his position. (Maybe because he was bucking for a vice presidency?)

And do we need a child of every GOP politician to be gay for them to realize there are actual human beings whose rights are being violated?

We’re having a hard time patting Portman on the back, for a number of reasons:

* He received a 15 on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard—he opposed the Employee Non-Discrimination Act and told ThinkProgess that businesses should be able to fire gay people with no legal consequences.

* He didn’t sign the marriage-equality brief for the Supreme Court that dozens of other Republicans did just a few weeks ago.

* In his op-ed, Portman maintains the states should decide the issue of same-sex marriage without “judicial intervention from Washington.”

* He insists he won’t “take a leadership role”  in bringing other Republican lawmakers to the side of equality.

Are we being too cynical? We’ll come around—when our dad comes out as a Republican.

Is Portman’s announcement portentous? Can he be a key asset in securing LGBT rights? Share your thoughts in the comments section!