Ohio Sen. Rob Portman now supports gay marriage

CINCINNATI - Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio says he now supports gay marriage because one of his sons is gay.

During an interview with CNN on Thursday in Washington, Portman said "I'm announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about that has to do with gay couples' opportunity to marry."

He says his evolution on the subject of gay marriage has to do with another revelation. In 2011 his son, Will, then a freshman at Yale University, told his parents he was gay.

"I've come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, 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," Portman said on CNN.

Portman says his new views reflect "a change of heart from the position of a father" and that he first talked to his pastor and others, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter is a lesbian.

On CNN, Portman reflected on how his son announced the news.

"My son came to Jane, my wife, and I, told us that he was gay, and that it was not a choice, and that it's just part of who he is, and that's who he'd been that way for as long as he could remember," he said.

Last year, when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was vetting Portman to be his running mate, the Ohio Republican informed both Romney and his top campaign advisers that he has a gay son.

"I told Mitt Romney everything," said Portman with a laugh. "That process is, intrusive would be one way to put it. But, no, yeah, I told him everything."

Portman, who was ultimately passed over as the GOP vice-presidential candidate in favor of Rep. Paul Ryan, said the fact that his son is gay was not the deal breaker for Romney. How does he know?

"Well, because they told me," said Portman

As a member of the House in 1996, Portman voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Many people took to social media to talk about Portman's decision Friday morning.

Cincinnati City Council member Chris Seelbach, who is also openly gay, tweeted early Friday morning about Portman's stance.

" @ robportman has shown what it means to be a real leader. As the first openly LGBT person elected in southwest Ohio, his hometown, thank u," Seelback tweeted.

University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono tweeted about Portman, too.

"Senator Portman is one of America's great leaders. Yesterday he showed the world he is also a great Dad. I've never been more proud of him," Ono tweeted.

Many people took to the WCPO - 9 On Your Side Facebook page to share their thoughts about Portman's change in stance.

"He just lost my vote.....smh," posted Ivan Pennington.

Carla Fahey took to Facebook to question why Portman changed his mind.

"I think it's a shame that he only changed his stance because his son is gay. I also think he's only changing his stance because he's afraid of the backlash from the public when they found out he was against his own son's right to marry," Fahey wrote.

Bill Cowgill shared his hope for the nation's stance on gay marriage.

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If I does not hurt me, why would I be against it," Cowgill posted on Facebook. "Religion and our government policies are supposed to be separate. Gay marriage should be legal everywhere!!"

Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, said Portman no longer has his organization's endorsement.

"We have what we call non-negotiable issues. Abortion and marriage are two of those and the fact that he is wrong now on the marriage issue, he will not receive our endorsement," said Burress.

WCPO Digital's Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report.

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