Monday, March 18, 2013
Senator Portman, please pass the yams...
...and welcome to the table.
I say this because US Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) "came out" last Friday in support of Marriage Equality. Portman was a darling of the Conservative Right. And now he has taken his place at the table of Marriage Equality backers.
Prior to becoming Ohio's junior senator a couple years ago, Portman was also a Congressman and held a trade appointment in the Bush Administration.
Portman was, up until Friday, the kind of straight shooting family values kinda white guy that Conservative Republicans loved. And he looked presidential, so his name was bandied about for the 2012 Presidential nomination. Then his name was bandied about for Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential choice. Then he kind of slipped from the radar screen, and became another Republican Senator.
Until last Friday, that is.
In a very personal Op-Ed piece in the consistently conservative Columbus Dispatch - the offices for which are located immediately east of the Ohio State House Annex - Portman "came out" in favor of Marriage Equality.
Portman said, in the piece - which few have read outside of the Dispatch's daily circulation, but many talked about - that as a supporter of "traditional marriage" the catalyst for changing his mind was Rob and Jane Portman's son, Will, coming out to them in 2010.
My first reaction was "shut the front door!" Really? A Conservative Republican from Cincinnati, Ohio - a place that has the same moral code as it did when William Howard Taft was elected to President in 1908 - admits to changing their mind? This cannot be.
My second thought was, this man has just committed political suicide.
The story was so big, it was the lead story on Friday morning's national news shows, for the same two reasons. Conservative, from a Conservative city - someone who signed DOMA - changed his mind?
Then the news started sinking in and people started thinking about this deeper than the immediate win for marriage equality.
Why, many, many people asked, did it take so long for him to change his mind?
And then some people wanted to know why he took so long.
Then there were the people who said "He's known about his son being gay for two years and NOW he comes out in favor of it?"
One young woman on Facebook, a straight Marriage Equality backer from Mt. Gilead, Ohio, even went so far to say that she hated Rob Portman because "Rob Portman hates the human race" because it took him too long to come to this announcement.
Portman hates the human race because you think he took too long to change his mind? He hates the human race because he agrees with you?
And my response, in my head, to that young lady (maybe in her late 20's)? Oh, Bitch. Please!
But there is a truth in life that many of us prefer not to admit is true: Sometimes, not everyone walks in our shoes and sees the world as we see it. I know its hard to admit this. But it is true.
I believe in a God, and that God is a loving God. You may not believe in God. Or you may prefer the vengeful version of God.
Not everyone thinks that cajun blue is the best color ever created. You may love it, but I think its ugly.
Not everyone loves chopped liver. I love it, why won't you even taste it?
And not everyone thinks that Karl Rove really is a turd blossom. I don't mean in the endearing sense about Rove either. I am certain that Rove is simply a turd, but there are those people who think he is a good, caring man. They exist, trust me. And these people can't imagine why anyone would ever think anything negative about Karl?
So why did Portman make the announcement when and how he did?
Simple: like every other human being on the face of God's green earth, he needed the time to think it over. This isn't how he was raised. This wasn't the way the world was meant to work. This wasn't what they preached in church. And it certainly wasn't the way his friends and work buddies felt. So, Rob Portman had to think this through for himself, however he thinks things through, and get a place where he felt the right side needed to be. He needed to come out in support of it; that was the right thing to do.
"But his son has been out for two years," some are saying. "Why did it take him TWO YEARS for him to support his son and support Marriage Equality?"
I'll tell you why. Because when you really love someone, you want what is best for them. But that doesn't mean that you understand this gay thing. This isn't the way life was supposed to turn out.
And just as we have to come out, many parents too have to come out as well. And that includes Rob Portman, father of Will, who also happens to be a sitting US Senator.
If you are one of those who is for Marriage Equality, but is angry or cross or vexed that Rob Portman didn't do exactly as you think he should have done, when you think he should of done it, you need to imagine how this could have gone down. Portman could have cut all ties to his son. Portman could have doubled down and pushed legislation for a Constitutional ban on Same Sex Marriage.
It could have happened that way. But it didn't. And we should be thanking out lucky stars that it worked out the way it did. And I for one have more respect for Portman that I do of straight allies like that girl from Mount Gilead who doesn't know what really "hating the human race" means, or who in history (Hitler, Paul Pot, the American people for what they did to Native North American peoples) has tried to exterminate humans and prove it.
Now, put yourself in Portman's place. He's the outsider in his own world. We know what that feels like, correct. Are you going to castigate him when he has shown great bravery and honor in taking the "right" stance on an issue that the Conservative Right thinks is evil? Are you going to mock him for his decision? He is alone and without allies within his circle of friends for where he stands on Marriage Equality. Who does he trust on this issue? And will they reject him because of this new found principle. We've been in these shoes before, haven't we?
Sometimes I think that some LGTB people are so glad that their personal coming out is over that we forget what its like to be the person doing the coming out. We don't want to go through their process because it reminds us of our own. So we subconsciously just want people to get it over, already. But we must not ever forget that it is their coming out, and it needs to happen on their terms. And Rob Portman is coming out on Marriage Equality.
Don't question the man on why he didn't do it quick enough for you, admire him. He has the courage to do what he did, support him. This is his journey, not yours or mine.
And if his son Will has an issue with his father, then that is between father and son. But I'd don't think it the case.
I, for one, welcome him to the table of Marriage Equality believers. Rob, there is a seat right next to me. Sorry you didn't get to savor the victories we've enjoyed to date, but your family now. And I'm proud of you. Now, would you mind passing those yams? And help yourself to whatever we can do for you.