Republican Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, found himself under fire on Friday from his conservative constituents after announcing that he had had a change of heart on gay marriage.
The Ohio lawmaker -- who was on Mitt Romney's short list of running mates -- said he came around to the decision after his 21-year-old son, Will (in checked shirt), came out to him two years ago.
"I've come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do," Portman told CNN. "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."
While I would like to say that it makes me happy to have the first Republican senator come out in support of marriage equality, I am having a difficult time getting past the whole "I need this EXACT situation to affect me PERSONALLY before I can do anything" mentality that seems to persist in the halls of Congress.
Do I need to have a close relative have Parkinson's disease to think there should be government funding for a cure? Does a member of my family need to be African American for me to think the Voting Rights Act needs to be renewed? Does my house have to be destroyed by a hurricane to vote for emergency relief funding? The utter lack of empathy displayed by so many elected officials sickens me to the point that if and when some of them finally see the light, I almost hate them more... for showing a complete lack of conviction.
I guess this is just the way it works -- social change is always slow going, just as it's been with other minorities -- but don't look for me to be handing out any awards for acting like a human being. Because while it's true that Portman has suddenly embraced gay rights, we also know that he still voiced opposition to the Employment Nondiscrimination Act while he was being considered for veep -- even though he already knew his son was gay. (Thanks, Dad.)
I sent Senator Portman an email today saying I appreciated his belated support, but that I'd like to think that moving forward, he could begin to show empathy for people even when he doesn't have a horse in the race.
As it stand now, it kind of feels like -- as a friend so eloquently put it -- giving a gold medal to someone for not spitting on homeless people.