JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Rob Portman and Discovery

Rob Portman is an Ohio senator who, until recently, had been an ardent enemy of same-sex marriage.

Like many conservatives, Portman believed homosexuality to be a sin. In 1996 he supported the Defense of Marriage Act. In his state, gay marriage is illegal—a law he also backed.

Then, two years ago, his 21-year-old son, Will, came out. Now Portman believes gay marriage should be legal. He made this opinion clear in today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer.

On the one hand, this is good news. Clearly, the tide has turned on the gay marriage issue, and before long the rapidly decreasing number of bigoted evangelists and arch-conservatives will fade off into the sunset, gone forever. Gay marriage is all but certain to become a federal law—whether the Supreme Court rules in its favor in a few months, or if it takes a couple of more years. You don’t have to have eyes to see where this is heading.

And yet—I find myself infuriated with Rob Portman and his ilk. Back in the 1950s and ’60s (and even early ’70s), white southerners fought to the death to keep their colleges and universities 100-percent white. They didn’t want integration; didn’t want those negros soiling their beautiful campuses. Then (whoa) they started playing football. And dominating football. Running left. Running right. Tackling. Suddenly, every school had to have those same negros. Not just one or two. Ten! Twenty! Before long, they were (gasp!) everywhere. Making straight-As. Winning academic scholarships. Uncovering scientific breakthroughs. Holy shit—the world didn’t end. Or even come close to ending.

Wow.

I digress. I am happy to hear of Rob Portman’s change of heart. I think it’s beautiful that he’s accepted his son. But, well, where the fuck were you five, 10, 15, 20 years ago? Why was it so hard to see this truth in others? Why did it have to be your son? Were the sons and daughters of others not good enough? Not important enough? You viewed them as unworthy, unacceptable outcasts. But, because it’s your offspring, your eyes have been open? Convenient.

I’m not trying to make this a political post—but am I wrong in saying there’s a lengthy history of this happening with conservatives on social issues? They drag their feet and drag their feet and drag their feet, only to see, oh, maybe we were off. I still get a kick out of seeing older southern politicians observing moments of silence on Martin Luther King Day. There’s a delicious irony; honoring the man whose ideas repulsed you. Pretending, in hindsight, that you were with him the whole time.

I am not gay. No one in my family is openly gay. I’ve had a few scattered gay friends throughout my life, but not too many. Wanna know why I’m 100-percent pro-gay marriage? Wanna know why I’ve been 100-percent pro-gay rights for as long as I can remember?

Because they’re people, and they deserve equal treatment and respect under the law.

I don’t need my son to show me that.