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GOP's Portman, a senator from Ohio, changes stance on gay rights

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 7:48 p.m.
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) responds to reporters during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, in this June 26, 2012 file photo. Portman, who was on the short list last year to be the party's vice presidential candidate, said he reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage after learning in 2011 that his son is gay. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio dropped a political bomb on Friday morning, announcing that he supports same-sex marriage because his son is gay.

“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get married,” the Republican, who was on the short list to become former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's running mate in the 2012 presidential campaign, wrote in an op-ed that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch.

Portman's son, 21-year-old Will, told Portman and his wife, Jane, two years ago that he is gay.

“It's a change of heart from the position of a father,” Portman told Ohio reporters in an interview on Thursday, before the op-ed appeared. “I think we should be allowing gay couples the joy and stability of marriage.”

Some predicted Portman's embrace would be a watershed moment for the Republican Party on gay rights. Others said it wouldn't budge the GOP an inch.

One clear impact of Portman's announcement: it put his Republican colleagues in Congress on the spot, forcing them to answer a slew of questions about their own positions on gay marriage.

When House Speaker John Boehner's press secretary, Michael Steel, walked into the Speaker's Lobby on Friday morning, he was quickly surrounded by reporters — all wanting reaction to Portman's decision.

“Sen. Portman is a great friend and ally, and the speaker respects his position,” Steel said, reading from a statement on his Blackberry. “But the speaker continues to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Portman's support of gay marriage could spark others in the GOP to follow suit.

“If there was any doubt that the conservative logjam on the issue of civil marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples has broken, Senator Portman's support for the freedom to marry has erased it,” he said in a statement.

But there were few public signs of a crack in the GOP wall of opposition to gay marriage on Friday.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia, told CNN it was Portman's “prerogative” to change his views on same-sex marriage, but the traditional definition of marriage won't change “no matter what politicians decide.”

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