Add Ohio Voters, 4 Senators to Marriage Equality
In the wake of conservative GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s surprise March 15 announcement that he has come out in favor of marriage equality, many observers concluded that his stand would cost him re-election in Ohio. Perhaps once again proving its reputation as America’s bellwether state, a new poll shows Buckeyes as having made a U-turn similar to Portman’s.
According to the Saperstein Poll conducted for the Columbus Dispatch, 54 percent of Ohioans support repealing a 2004 state constitutional amendment that restricted marriage to a man and woman, with two-thirds voting in favor.
A proposed amendment would "allow two consenting adults to marry, regardless of their gender." As in other states, it details religious carve outs that allow congregations and clerics to decide whether or not to sanctify such relationships. Pollster Martin D. Saperstein noted how important such previsions are important in the heavily churchgoing state. "They ameliorate the concerns that some people may have, like is this going to be forced on me, or forced on my church," he said.
Sapterstein attributed the remarkable turnaround in Ohioans’ attitude to younger voters. "Part of that comes as the media make gay people look more common," he told the Dispatch.
Jen Tyrell, 33, who made headlines last year when the Boy Scouts of America ruled she could no longer serve as a Cub Scout den leader for her son’s pack because she is a lesbian, also believes religious carve-outs could prove pivotal. Allowing clerics to "be free to choose to marry or not marry," the Bridgeport, Ohio, resident told the Dispatch, is "really important for people who feel like that."
Chris Long, president of the Ohio Christian Alliance, represented the state’s still-powerful evangelicals. Poll results would have been different, he told the newspaper, if voters had been asked "the question alone to reverse the 2004 question to allow same-sex marriage." When people understand clearly what is presented to them, he’s confident Ohioans will again affirm their support of traditional marriage.
Portman Details Dad’s Conversion
Both supporters and opponents have remarked on how rapidly Americans have changed their views on the issue.
Even so, Sen. Portman’s declaration became one of the most-discussed conversions to the same-sex marriage cause in recent years. Thus far, he remains the only Republican senator to have done so, although many prominent Republicans, including former Vice President Dick Chaney and Laura Bush, the wife of the man he served under, have come out in support.
Portman wrote in an op-ed piece for the Dispatch that it was his son’s coming out to him in 2011 that caused his personal road to Damascus. In his own op-ed piece in his college newspaper, son Will wrote of how he persuaded his dad that same-sex couples deserve the same rights as straight couples. "I started talking to my dad more about being gay, Portman fils wrote in Monday’s Yale Daily News.
"Through the process of my coming out, we’d had a tacit understanding that he was my dad first and my senator a distant second," he added. "Eventually, though, we began talking about the policy issues surrounding marriage for same-sex couples."
Last summer, his father was a frontrunner to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. Portman told Romney campaign staffers about Will and said he and his wife were "supportive and proud of their gay son." He also said he would not lie about Will’s orientation on the campaign trail.
"When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign," Will revealed. "Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public."
The Portman family collectively decided that the senator would only discuss his son’s sexual orientation if he were asked his views on same-sex marriage. "It would be the only honest way to explain his change of heart," Will Portman wrote. "Besides, the fact that I was gay would probably become public anyway. I had encouraged my dad all along to change his position but it gave me pause to think that the one thing that nobody had known about me for so many years would suddenly become the one thing that everyone knew about me."