The gay son of an Arizona congressman who opposes marriage equality defended his father's position in an interview with the Washington Blade Tuesday.
"Whether I can legally marry in Arizona or not, it’s not going to change that fact, and my father knows that and he accepts my desire to be with the man that I love," said Matt R. Salmon. "As far as it goes with marriage, for him it’s a matter of what marriage means to him -- to him marriage is defined as between a man and a woman."
In an interview with local Phoenix television station KTVK on Sunday, Rep. Matt J. Salmon (R-Ariz.) said, "I don't support gay marriage," but added, "my son and I have had a lot of dialogue about it. I will say this: You know, my son is by far one of the most important people in my life. I love him more than I can say."
Citing "hateful" comments left on his father's Facebook page, Matt R. Salmon told the Blade that the LGBT community's response to his father's statements has been "incredibly intolerant," and that the community finds it difficult to understand that the father and son's divergent views on marriage equality don't infringe upon their relationship.
"My father loves me very much and he supports me and he respects me. He’s very much there for me as one of my closest friends," said Salmon, who once headed the Arizona Log Cabin Republicans, the state chapter of the national gay and lesbian Republican grassroots organization.
In March, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) became the first sitting Republican senator to announce his support for gay marriage. In an op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch, Portman acknowledged that his change of heart came after his son, Will, came out to he and his wife.
Will Portman, a student at Yale, wrote his own piece in the Yale Daily News in the wake of his father's announcement and praised the senator's reversal on the issue.
Salmon, however, told the Blade that he believes his father's views on gay marriage are changing and that his parents "wouldn’t actively do anything" to support anti-gay measures.
In his interview with KTVK, the congressman did not rule out his own evolution on same-sex marriage and compared his views with Portman's. "It just means that I haven't evolved to that station," he said. "Rob Portman apparently has. I haven't."
A growing number of lawmakers have come out in support of marriage equality in the past few weeks as the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8.
Republican lawmakers and party officials also seem more keen on accepting gay marriage. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) announced his support for marriage equality on Tuesday, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that while the party's stance on the issue has not changed, the GOP needs to be more accepting of Republicans who support gay marriage.
If Salmon does come out in favor of marriage equality, he would be making a very significant about-face, after voting in favor of DOMA in 1996 and a failed bill that would have barred same-sex couples in Washington, D.C., from adopting children.
Nancy Salmon, Matt R. Salmon's mother, once headed the Arizona chapter of United Families International, an anti-marriage equality group that spearheaded an effort to adopt a state amendment banning same-sex marriage. It was voted down by Arizona citizens at the polls.
In 2008, a similar ballot measure banning same-sex marriage in Arizona passed but Salmon said, his mother had little to do with its passing. "My mom told me that she stopped being involved because of me," he said.