Some gay marriage attitude changes questionable

Farm Forum

When Ohio Sen. Rob Portman announced he had changed his mind about same-sex marriage, you might have expected some criticism from religious conservatives. You might not have expected a wave of derision from the left, but that is what he received.

Portman explained that his opposition to gay marriage was rooted in his faith tradition. When he learned that his son was gay, he came to look at the issue from a new perspective: “that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love.”

Oddly, this is what liberals always said should happen. Once we get to know people who differ from us (or discover that we already know them), we might find that our differences aren’t as real or important as we thought they were.

Portman’s change of heart did not please the left. Jonathan Chait explains: “wanting your children to be happy is the most natural human impulse. But our responsibility as political beings . . . is to consider issues from a societal perspective.”

This strikes me as altogether wrong. As a “political being,” Portman’s responsibility is to take positions on the issues. He should be judged by those positions and how he acts on them, not on how he came to take such positions. While paternal love might be the reason he decided to support gay marriage, he is now in favor of legalizing the institution for anyone who might choose it. That is what will count when Ohio conservatives reconsider their support, and it is what should count for everyone else.

Portman joins a number of prominent Democrats who have suddenly come out on the issue. President Barack Obama recently saw the light, as did Hillary Clinton and her husband. It was President Bill Clinton, after all, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. Our own senior senator, Tim Johnson, announced that his “views have evolved sufficiently to support marriage equality legislation.” We learn this just after we learned that Johnson will not seek another term.

I am very suspicious of the senator’s use of the term “evolved.” It implies that the views of others are not only wrong but primitive. I know a lot of intelligent and caring people who are opposed to same-sex marriage.

While I do not agree with them, I don’t imagine for a moment that my view is somehow more advanced.

I also find it difficult to believe that all these sudden conversions were genuine.

Obama and the Clintons are doctrinaire liberals. Their previous support for traditional marriage was motived entirely by political calculations. Now that the polls indicate an increase in public support for legal gay marriage, they can afford to tell us what they really think. I am not particularly offended by this. It looks like politics.

I just don’t think that they are in any way more admirable than Portman. Both his opposition to same-sex marriage and his subsequent change of heart were honest.

Kenneth C. Blanchard Jr. is a professor of political science at Northern State University. Write to him at The views presented are his and do not represent Northern State University.