Yes, it would be wonderful if your gay college-age son had the opportunity for the “joy and stability” of a long, happy marriage like yours with Mrs Portman. Yes, many of us are glad that you allowed the personal to become political. Yes, we recognize that you now see that your previous opposition to marriage equality would hurt your own son. That may have been, for you, the only way to see your way clear to support full marriage equality.
Far be it from me to begrudge you your previous opposition to human and civil rights recognition in America; once someone’s on-board with our movement for full equality, I welcome them wholeheartedly. We simply all must say, “Yes, welcome, glad to have you aboard! This is what our movement seeks: conversion of our opponents to our view. Congratulations!”
It must not be fun to be in the minority.
And there’s the thing, right there: in your statement about your change of views, and how your son’s coming out to you and your wife two years ago prompted a re-examination of them, none of us heard an apology for your previous views and votes. You don’t need to prostrate yourself, there’s no need to make a big deal about it. Surely you realize that your previous views hurt people — they have made their hurt known to you directly and publicly, recently.
Portman, who was touted as a a potential running mate for Mitt Romney last year, says his son Will revealed his sexual orientation to his parents in February 2011. That was about three months before Portman would see around 100 members the University of Michigan law school’s graduating class walk out of his commencement speech in protest of his anti-gay record. That record includes a 2004 vote for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and in 1999, support for a bill that would bar gay and lesbian couples from adopting.
When completely reversing one’s views like you did, Senator, on an issue that directly affects people, it is sometimes nice to also throw in, “I’m sorry if I hurt anyone with my votes or views; that wasn’t my intention. I now see how hurtful it might have been. I wouldn’t want my son hurt that way, and if I hurt you or your family by espousing those previous views and by my votes, please accept my apology.”
And — while we don’t expect you to get everything 100% right — it’s not “Gay Marriage” our movement seeks. Marriages aren’t gay or straight. What we seek is equal access to civil marriage: Marriage Equality. So, not that we expect you to be any great advocate for our movement — but: it would be nice if you’d respect the name we give our goal. And realize, if you wouldn’t mind, that “Gay Marriage” is what our opponents call it.
Which you aren’t anymore, amirite?
Finally, you do know, don’t you Senator, that’s there more to our movement than Marriage Equality? I mean, just as you wouldn’t want your heterosexual offspring discriminated against in an employer’s hiring decision, you don’t want your gay son treated badly when interviewing for jobs or promotions, right? You don’t want him subject to discrimination in the workplace, or harassment for being gay?
And this concern isn’t only for your own son, is it? You also now believe this protection from discrimination should be extended to all LBGT people, I presume.
That’s going to mean a change in your ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) vote, Senator. And, as part of your taking the opportunity to extend yourself and make up for previous opposition prior to knowing your son was gay, we’d like it if you became a sponsor. Same goes for the Respect for Marriage Act, now pending in the Congress, which overturns DOMA legislatively. We need your support for these bills, and I hope we can count on it.
And, frankly, we’ll be looking for you to take a leadership, sponsorship role in all the LGBT legislation that comes your way in the Senate, sir. It all applies to your son. And we know you want your son treated like anyone else’s.
Again, thanks for finding your way to support our marriages. Now it’s time for you to examine your entire record (because we are). Look for places to allow for your son to be treated fairly by your votes and sponsorship. Because, clearly, it’s about your son. You’ve proven that to us already. If you’re going to apply that test to your political stances, you need to look at more than just marriage.
Ask yourself, Senator: “Is this how I’d want my son treated?” Because that’s about all you’ve shown we can expect. I mean, we’ll take it, but if it’s as far as your empathy extends, you must at least apply it in all areas.
Welcome to the American Majority for Marriage Equality, Senator.
We’ll be watching.