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Rob Portman’s helping GOP revisit marriage

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio cosponsored the Defense of Marriage Act.Associated Press

Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican rising star who co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, announced a public change of heart Friday. Two years after learning that his son was gay, Portman said, he has come to think differently about same-sex marriage, seeing it as a tribute, not a challenge, to the value of marriage itself. His declaration comes after a group of prominent current and former GOP officeholders — including Massachusetts governors William Weld, Jane Swift, and Paul Cellucci — argued for equal marriage rights in a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court challenge to DOMA.

Slowly but surely, more Republicans are changing what seemed to be an intractable stance. To some degree, this is a nod toward electoral reality. Gay marriage won great success at the ballot box last year; polls show that the majority of Americans support it, overwhelmingly so among younger Americans. The truest proof of GOP leadership on the issue will come when more politicians set aside their fear of primary challenges to do the right thing — not because they happen to have relatives who are gay, but because they recognize that gay marriage, like the civil rights struggle decades ago, is the just and right thing for the country. But if Portman's declaration provides a path for other Republicans to reconsider their views, so much the better.