Conservatives to Portman: Gay ‘Marriage’ Harmful to the People Involved and Society

Michael James | March 21, 2013 | 8:04pm EDT
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Sen. Robert Portman (R-Ohio) (AP)

( -- Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced in a Mar. 15 commentary that he had switched his position on “gay marriage” because one of his sons had disclosed he was homosexual, a reversal of views that some conservative leaders criticized as harmful to the people directly involved and to society overall.

“Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay,” wrote Portman. “At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. … I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement that he applauded Portman for loving his son no matter what the circumstances but that he -- as a conservative aware of the social necessity for marriage between a man and a woman -- could not condone Portman’s view about “gay marriage.”

"I commend Senator Portman for his unconditional love for his son,” said Perkins on Mar. 15.  “Unconditional love, however, does not mean unconditional support in choices that are both harmful to them and society as a whole. This is especially true when we approach public policy.”

“Our unconditional love for our children should not override the historical and social science evidence, which makes abundantly clear what is best for all children and for society -- being raised by a married mother and father.”

"Senator Portman stated this was a generational issue, with younger Americans more supportive of redefining marriage,” said Perkins.  “However, one of the Senate's youngest senators, Marco Rubio, clearly articulated the need for natural marriage and the right of states to preserve it. The Supreme Court should allow the debate about marriage to continue.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. (AP)

“As this debate goes on, we believe that most states will continue to conclude that marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces,” said Perkins.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. on Mar. 14, Rubio said, "Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in the traditional way does not make me a bigot."

In his commentary, Portman also wrote, “British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he supports allowing gay couples to marry because he is a conservative, not in spite of it. I feel the same way. We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility.”

Cameron backed same-sex “marriage” in a Dec. 7, 2012 interview. He said,  "I’m in favor of gay marriage because I'm a massive supporter of marriage and I don't want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.”

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, refuted Portman’s assertion when he spoke to

“In this case, [Portman] changed his public policy view.,” said LaBarbera. “He was elected on that plank, he’s flipping it now, and that’s really a betrayal of the values that he stood for before the Ohio voters. Just because his son has chosen to embrace homosexuality, I don’t think necessitates this kind of action, and I think it’s very sad. I feel for him, but it’s very sad.”

Portman won the Senate race, his first term, in November 2010 and started his term in January 2011. At the time, he opposed “gay marriage.”

LaBarbera said, “I think it would have been a more mature, a more tough-love approach for Senator Portman not to abandon his, essentially, his whole outlook on this very important moral issue of marriage, what marriage is. I think it would have been more mature if he had maintained his love for his son, of course, but not altered his entire worldview to accommodate it.”

“Maybe in the back of his mind, he might have feared how the whole situation could be manipulated by gay activists, and of course he would’ve been completely accurate in that because they manipulate all the time with this,” said LaBarbera.

“Any time they find a family connection, they’re like, ‘Oh, what kind of a person wouldn’t affirm their own son,’ as if we all have to think alike about homosexuality in order to love somebody, which is preposterous,” said LaBarbera.

Ben Shaprio, a 29-year-old conservative commentator and author, echoed LaBarbera's points.

Nationally syndicated columnist and author Ben Shapiro.

“If you watch TV, the whole goal of the left is to normalize behavior that a lot of people disagree with, and to make you feel like you’re a bad person if you have moral scruples about certain behavior,” said Shapiro. “It’s effective because it’s an emotional appeal. There’s no argument here. ‘I have a gay son’ is not an argument.”

Shapiro went on to draw an analogy between same-sex marriage advocates with gay relatives and his own personal background. “I’m an Orthodox Jew. I don’t think that policy for hundreds of millions of people should shift because I happen to keep kosher," he said.

“People of our age bracket [late 20s] have grown up without any sort of understanding of the difference between the sexes in any real way," said Shapiro.  "They’ve been taught since birth by the baby boomer generation that any sort of sexual behavior was okay, and that there’s no difference between the sexes in terms of men and women."

"In fact, you’re considered sexist if you discuss differences between the sexes, so of course people think that gays, two dudes or two girls, should marry each other,” he said.

Shapiro also criticized the political right for its handling of this issue, saying, “They have blown this argument for 50 years. If the right doesn’t see what’s coming down the pike, this is going to get a whole hell of a lot worse for the right. The right let the culture get away from it. The right sat by and watched as culture was destroyed by the left, and now the left is about to grab that tool of government and use it against the right.”

“Without a cultural sea change, this is a losing issue," said Shapiro.  "I don’t know how you can have 75 percent of births out-of-wedlock in the black community and then say to them that two dudes can’t live together. It’s ridiculous."

"Marriage has been completely undermined for the last 50 years and now it looks nasty," he said.  "The state can approve gays adopting; the state can approve single mothers getting welfare benefits that other people pay for; the state can approve virtually everything in life, but the state cannot approve two guys living together with a marriage license? Of course it looks discriminatory. Of course it looks nasty."

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