The first sitting Republican U.S. senator to come out in support of same-sex marriage is Rob Portman of Ohio. Portman appeared on CNN Thursday in his only on-camera interview about the "evolution" of his position after his son came out to him as gay two years ago.
In a piece he wrote for the Columbus Dispatch Friday, Portman said, "Ronald Reagan said all great change in America begins at the dinner table, and that’s been the case in my family."
"Around the country, family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers have discussed and debated this issue, with the result that today twice as many people support marriage for same-sex couples as when the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law 17 years ago by President Bill Clinton, who now opposes it. With the overwhelming majority of young people in support of allowing gay couples to marry, in some respects the issue has become more generational than partisan."
Portman told CNN's Dana Bash that his son, now a junior in college, helped him work through the process of publicly announcing both his change in position and Will Portman's sexuality. "I think he's happy and, you know, proud that we've come to this point, but he let it be my decision."
Portman also said he agrees with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who "supports allowing gay couples to marry because he is a conservative, not in spite of it." The senator said that allowing same-sex marriage is in alignment with the conservative ideals of "personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives."
The reversal has been called "stunning," as the prominent Republican has long opposed marriage equality. Portman was in the running to be Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential election. Portman says the disclosure about his son's sexuality did not factor into Romney's decision to pick Paul Ryan instead.
Despite his change in position, Portman still believes the issue should be decided by states, not Washington. The senator believes national consensus is already moving toward allowing same-sex marriage. "Judicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process as it’s moving in the direction of recognizing marriage for same-sex couples.”