The Portman position
Why do so few share the senator’s views on marriage?

Reuters

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) talks to reporters during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, June 26, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • When Senator Rob Portman of Ohio endorsed same-sex marriage, he joined a very small club.

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  • Rob Portman of Ohio is the first Republican senator to endorse same-sex marriage.

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  • Portman is 1 in a small group who supports same-sex marriage, but doesn't want the SCOTUS to require states to adopt it.

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When Senator Rob Portman of Ohio endorsed same-sex marriage, he joined a very small club — or, actually, two of them. He is the first Republican senator to have taken this position. He is also one of a small number of people who support same-sex marriage as a public policy but do not want the Supreme Court to require all states to adopt that policy.

More typically, politicians who have had a change of heart on marriage, or at least changed their public positions on it, have leaped, sometimes in one bound, to the conclusion that the policy they used to support was not only mistaken but unconstitutional. President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and ran radio ads touting the fact in his reelection campaign. Now he says the Supreme Court should strike down an important portion of the law. (Maybe next year he’ll call for the Court to get rid of the rest of it.)

In an op-ed attempting to justify his change of position, Clinton noted that when he signed the law he had urged that it not be used as an “excuse for discrimination” against same-sex couples. “I know now,” he added, that “the law is itself discriminatory.” He also borrowed a claim from a group of former senators who voted for the act but this year submitted a brief to the Court urging its nullification. They said that many supporters of the bill had favored it only to head off calls for a constitutional amendment codifying the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, “which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.”

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