Portman and gay marriage

If Rob Portman’s son had come out ten years ago, Portman wouldn’t have changed his mind on marriage.

So Rob Portman’s son comes out as gay, and Portman changes his mind on gay marriage. Lots of fun snark around this, of course: “Eventually one of these Republican congressmen is going to find out his daughter is a woman, and then we’re all set.” (Something to this, it turns out.) “Let’s hope Portman’s kid has trouble finding affordable healthcare.”

Yes, as a moral stance reconsidering your principles only when they hurt you personally isn’t especially impressive. Jonathan Chait asks, “But why should any of us come away from his conversion trusting that Portman is thinking on any issue about what’s good for all of us, rather than what’s good for himself and the people he knows?” And no one answers. Since no Republican officeholder expects to become poor, let alone black or undocumented, they will continue in good conscience to back policies are horrible for poor, black, and undocumented people, unless they think it will cost them votes. (The Onion to the contrary notwithstanding, none of their kids will die for lack of health coverage. Note that Portman doesn’t seem to have changed his mind about job discrimination against gays.)

Still, I’ll take what I can get. Maybe his son’s coming-out genuinely drove Portman to re-examine his conscience, or maybe it provided an easy way for Portman to make a move necessary if he wants to win enough Millennial votes to capture the White House, while cushioning the blow to social conservatives.

One thing you can bet the ranch on: it wouldn’t have happened ten years ago, and it won’t be necessary ten years from now. In the meantime, celebrate!

Footnote I’m glad to see Newt Gingrich holding fast to his position that marriage is between one man and one woman … after another.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

18 thoughts on “Portman and gay marriage”

  1. Well, when one of my sisters came out, it did move the needle on my thinking. Mind you, that was forty years ago. But good on Portman – Cheney also got moved by family, and I think it was a good thing.

  2. The problem with Portman’s “conversion” is that it is anecdotal, based upon a story about an individual. The fact that the individual is within Portman’s “territory” makes it a trifle worse, but really only a trifle.

    Now, let us wait and watch what he does ($0.05 says “nothing”) and what he says to other audiences.

  3. I’m not the first to point this out, but there is a structural problem with insights such as Portman’s. His child may be gay, or a woman, or suffer from a mental disease, or something else. And maybe the empathy felt by the Portmans of the world will communicate to his colleagues. And that’s all to the good.

    But Portman’s child never be poor.

  4. Here’s what Connie Schultz (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and wife of Sherrod Brown) posted on Facebook: “Lots of awful comments on Rob Portman’s Facebook page after his announcement that he supports marriage equality. Please consider visiting his page and voicing your support. We can’t ask people to change and then not give them the chance to do so.”

  5. Not “good on portman.” Bad on ottoman. And all the other Rs without a sense of empathy.

    This is just one more example, meanwhile, of the “self-interest exemption” for Republicans, who are allowed by their party to deviate from one right-wing principle as long as it affects their own interests directly.

    From “No More Mr. Nice Blog”:

    Republicans want their politicians to be hardcore, but if you’re a GOP pol, you get a pass on certain issues if they affect a group of which you’re a member. That’s why John McCain, a torture victim, was able to get away with saying that waterboarding is torture. That’s why Dick Cheney, father of a lesbian, was able to get away with positive words about gay marriage. That’s why, more recently, the usually extremely hardcore congressman Allen West, an African-American, was able to get away with expressing outrage at the death of Trayvon Martin.

  6. He goes on to say, “These carve-outs for Republicans basically track with right-wing thinking about empathy: If an issue doesn’t affect you personally, or an affinity group of yours, why should you give a crap about how it affects other people?

    “So Rubio, as a Hispanic, can support a version of the DREAM Act. But the vast majority of the party, and especially the crazy base, is no more likely to go along with him than it is to go along with McCain on torture or Cheney on gay marriage.”

  7. This whole conversation is the height of hypocrisy on the left. Gay marriage wasn’t popular among *liberals* until years after many LGBT folk came out of the closet to their families and coworkers. Why on earth would this be any different for conservatives?

    1. This is nuts. Yes: the idea of gay equality didn’t become widely popular on the left until after after a whole lot of gay people dared to stand up and be recognized amid a gay-unfriendly society, and proclaim their humanity. Arguably, a still more enlightened liberal community should in an ideal world have reached that point on first principles without having to witness the struggles of those brave people. But there’s a difference between waiting to do the right thing until you’re made aware there’s a choice, and waiting to do the right thing until it benefits you personally. Portman wants the law to be changed because he doesn’t want the law to oppress his son. A week ago he was perfectly happy letting society and the law oppress a lot of other people’s sons, and on other issues such as health care, poverty, and education he’s still happy for society and the law to oppress a lot of other people’s sons. And you claim liberals are “hypocrites” because they needed to have it explained to them how society was oppressing other people’s sons?

      1. On this specific issue (that is, whether same-sex partners should be able to marry) Portman is LESS THAN A YEAR behind Barack Obama, who first voiced his support in May of 2012.

        I don’t know what motivated him, but the timing suggests that Obama waited “to do the right thing” until it “benefitted him personally.” In his case the benefit was political, because public opinion had shifted so that a majority of Americans in polls expressed support to allow same-sex couples to marry, and demographic trends were such that the shift was likely to continue for years. Prior to that (according to your way of thinking) he was “perfectly happy letting society and the law oppress a lot of other people’s sons.”

        1. No. The evidence suggests that Obama waited until openly supporting Gay marriage was less likely to hurt him politically, which is different from waiting until it helped him personally.

  8. Portman thinks the Supreme Court should not rule on marriage inequality and gay bashing thugs should vote for marriage inequality -that is NOT being for marriage equality http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2013/03/15/gay-couples-also-deserve-chance-to-get-married.html
    This is what he wrote in his OpEd (which too many people did not read)
    “The process of citizens persuading fellow citizens is how consensus is built and enduring change is forged. That’s why I believe change should come about through the democratic process in the states. Judicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process as it’s moving in the direction of recognizing marriage for same-sex couples. An expansive court ruling would run the risk of deepening divisions rather than resolving them.”

  9. look bob pottman has to do what bob portman has to do and the pope has to do what he has to do. as a gay economist. gay marriage will cost the american taxpaper between 1 to 3 trillion dollars over the next 30 years. cruch the numbers. if heterosexual taxpayers want to pay for it fine but since no universdity has done a study , noone know how expensive this will cost. both my straight counsin both lawyers ae salivating. they want a piece of the action couples who lived together for 20 years are now getting divorced in massachusetts. objection to potttman who predicted tomney would win the debates. almost all my gay male driend living togrther have other sex parters, i know marriager is between a man ansd a women and i an a swcular persom before christianity in greece men got marriedf and had sex partners younger men on the side. but hey meth is fine crack is fine polymory is finer gay marriage is fine suicide is fine we arte living in atime wher porn addiction isd fine but people know this is all bull. yoday’s parents are wussiws they will do anything for their kids, if the kids says hey mom i want to change swx the clueless parent says no you don’y but finally fives in . portman gave in. potyman is just another clueless parent. bet if obama’s daughters said michelle i have no interst in men i want a lady lover. michelle would say no way.

  10. i think portman’s remarks will energize the gop. if they are going to be replicas of the democrats they have no future, give me back the good old days when being gay was to be a revolutionary. free at last free at last even heterosexuals are reconsidering m,arriage. big winners prople like my cousin divorce lawyers losers the american taxpayers. you got to like bob portman an american hypoicrite like cheney whose wige might be bi. at least the saughter came out. but mom the5re’s a story to mom . why is gay marriage winning supporters. the insible bisexual xommuniry of 100 million americans. most married couples and i am not kinsey today’s female has had at least onw fling with a women and almost al men have had sex wirh a male so in theiur heart, they support gay marriage but they are against it. the word is conflicted. with gay marriage coming to france and the uk , we are nwxt canada and mexico have gay marriage. i hope the amerixan taxpayers get taken to the cleaners. how to have gay marriage if the dow was 20.000 i think there is no problem with having gay marriage. i hatw ryan and cantoe but if they find out how much gay parents is going to cost, they will freak but remember both of these guys are idiots neither has requested the u of wisconsin or george mason or the u of viurginia to do a study on the cost of gay marriage. it is like minimium wage. we can have full employment in amerixa if we pay everyone 5 dollars an hous. now you know why people hate the dismal sciwnxe

  11. Rob Portman’s son is in his late 20’s I believe. He came out to Sen Portman in 2011. So, I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that not only is Sen Portman blithely oblivious or shockingly ignorant, but his 2-year trigger for empathy toward his OWN family, suggests a total moral cretin.

    1. The timing might, rather, reflect a possible Vice-Presidential nomination in 2012. Whether that is morally better or worse I leave for others.

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