Senator Rob Portman speaks to Ohio GOP crowd for first time since announcing gay marriage support

FAIRFIELD, Ohio - Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says he hasn't received much negative feedback since publicly announcing his support for gay marriage.

Some party members said they were worried that would change Saturday night during the annual Butler County GOP Lincoln Day dinner held at the Oscar Event Center in Fairfield.

Sen. Portman was the featured speaker at the event and some predicted a smaller than usual turnout and a negative reaction after his recent public change of heart on the topic of same-sex marriage.

That didn't appear to be the case.

While some members of the Republican party have vocalized their lack of support for the Senator and his new position on gay marriage, Sen. Portman said that sentiment wasn't obvious during the event.  He said that while the crowd of hundreds was split on their views of the topic of same-sex marriage, everyone was "very respectful."

"What I've heard people say is, ‘Look Rob, we have a difference on this issue, but we still support you and respect you,'" he told 9 On Your Side.

The Cincinnati native announced last week that his views on same-sex marriage have been changing since 2011 when his 21-year-old son, Will, told him that he was gay.

"For me, it was a personal experience, a family experience and it was a change of heart based on that," Sen. Portman said. "It was a struggle because I had a different position, but I saw it through a different perspective, the perspective of a father."

His change of heart came under fire from some members of his political party and was further scrutinized when fellow Ohioans House Speaker and Cincinnati native John Boehner and Gov. John Kasich reiterated their opposition to gay marriage.

Sen. Portman said the fact his son is gay was mentioned when former presidential candidate Mitt Romney was looking for a running mate but it wasn't a deal-breaker.

"It did come up because I wanted them to be sure they knew. I was very open about it. And I feel very strongly it didn't make a difference because they told me that."

Regardless of how some perceive his changed views, Luanne Thorne respects Sen. Portman for his stance.

"I thought he was very brave because it kind of hit him and his soul and became personal to him," she said.

Portman says he continues to be primarily concerned with the top issues for most Republicans, like the economy, jobs and overspending in Washington, not gay marriage.


9 On Your Side reporter Amy Wadas contributed to this report.

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