An epiphany is a sudden and enlightening realization that allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective, and it is different than understanding something over time through evolving. Some human beings never evolve, or have epiphanies, regarding long-held beliefs and prejudices and one need look no farther than racial bigotry still rampant in America despite the Civil War, Civil Rights movement, and election of an African American as President. Over the course of the past decade, millions of Americans’ thinking evolved on the issue of gay rights, and Friday a staunch anti-gay rights Republican wrote in an op/ed that his thinking evolved and now he supports same-sex marriage. Senator Rob Portman’s newfound belief that “all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage” is welcomed news, but one gets the impression that, although not disingenuous, Portman is not quite all in for marriage equality.
Portman wrote that a 2011 revelation that his son was gay prompted him to rethink his position as a steadfast opponent of same-sex marriage. According to Portman, the decision to reconsider and announce his new stance was not motivated by political expediency, or because the issue is supported by younger people, but that he wanted to “get comfortable with my position before the politics of these court decisions make it more difficult to have an honest discussion.” If he had to get comfortable with his position before the Supreme Court hears arguments regarding same-sex marriage, then his commitment to the cause is suspect. Either he supports same-sex marriage or not regardless of arguments in front of the High Court, how it rules on the case, or how many states already legalized same-sex marriage. The idea he had to “get comfortable” politically betrays dedicated advocacy for same-sex couples’ equal rights.
Portman said his son’s coming out “allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” and that “the overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible and the fact I believe we are all created by our maker has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue.” This is the same bible that DOMA advocates, NOM, and fundamentalists will argue before the Supreme Court is the be all, end all definition of marriage as between one man and one woman that empowers them to deny same-sex couples the equal right marry the person they love.
If Portman is truly in favor of same-sex marriage for all Americans, he would not oppose a favorable ruling by the high court, but he indicated that is the case. He said, “I believe change should come about through the democratic process in the states. Judicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process of recognizing marriage for same-sex couples. An expansive court ruling would risk deepening divisions rather than resolving them.” Portman supported DOMA in 1996, and if he says marriage equality should be decided by individual states, then he still supports DOMA, the National Organization for Marriage, and Old Testament fundamentalists who successfully ban same-sex marriage in heavily Christian states. Although he suddenly supports same-sex marriage, Portman said he has no plans to sign onto any legal briefs ahead of the upcoming Supreme Court case, and he has not introduced legislation to repeal DOMA in its entirety.
No one denies Portman loves his son, or that he does not want him to have the opportunity to marry the person he loves, but the senator continued casting anti-gay votes long after his son revealed he was gay. Portman joined Jim DeMint in a filibuster against confirming an Obama nominee as the Ambassador to El Salvador in June over DeMint’s claim she once wrote an article that was pro-gay, and he voted for an amendment to strip provisions designed to protect members of the LGBT community from 2012’s Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act.
Every voice decrying the injustice of DOMA, or restrictions on equality for the LGBT community is welcomed with open arms, but why did Portman vote as an anti-gay proponent after his son revealed he was gay? And why did he oppose the bible’s message of love and compassion until yesterday and two years after his son’s coming out? Portman claims his epiphany was ultimately the result of reconciling his Christian faith with his love for his son, and yet it is not enough to introduce legislation to repeal DOMA, or sign on to other Republicans’ legal briefs in support of marriage equality. President Obama said for three years that his position on same-sex marriage was evolving, and he courageously came out in favor of same-sex marriage during a hotly-contested election, and directed the White House to write in support of marriage equality to convince the conservative Court that equal rights extend to every American; not just those in states that legalized gay marriage.
It is nice that after wrestling with his Christian faith, the Jesus love and compassion finally won the day, but if he is a devout follower of Christ; why did he stand with Old Testament sycophants and deny equal rights to gays at all, and especially for two years after his son came out? Obviously, Portman’s opinion on marriage equality is still evolving or he would not oppose “an expansive court ruling” he claims will circumvent the democratic process in the states fundamentalists use to prevent gays from enjoying marriage equality.
Like Portman before his change of heart, there are millions of Americans whose opposition to marriage equality is “rooted in their faith’s tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman,” and with limitless funding, like-minded bigots in the National Organization for Marriage and DOMA advocacy groups are restricting equal rights in deeply religious states. If Portman truly grasps the bible’s love and compassion message and believes his son deserves the same marriage rights as Portman and his wife, then he would demand the Supreme Court strike down bans on same-sex marriage to give every gay American equal rights.
Portman is to be commended for taking the first step toward supporting marriage equality, but he is no hero or courageous. His son, however, is courageous because the primary reason the LGBT community is finally gaining acceptance as human beings is because when Americans learn a friend, relative, or co-worker is gay, they realize they deserve the same love, compassion, and equal rights Jesus Christ advocated for all human beings regardless which state they live in. Portman needs an epiphany to realize that without a ruling granting marriage equality unconditionally, his son will never “experience the joy and stability of marriage” regardless the state he resides.