THE BLOG

Thanks, Sen. Portman, But...

03/18/2013 06:20 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
  • Jonathan Zeng Musician, performer, singer-songwriter and music educator

As a man from the state of Ohio, a resident of the great city of Cincinnati, the son of a mother who can't yet accept my sexuality, and one who has experienced discrimination because I am gay, thank you, Sen. Portman! Thank you for voicing support for your gay son and the LGBT community as a whole. Thank you for looking past political talking points and party lines. Thank you for reexamining your faith. Thank you for taking a risk, looking beyond your fear and speaking out. Thank you for showing us what real family values are. Thank you for articulating love.

As most Americans who are concerned with such issues already know, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Thursday that he has reversed his position on gay marriage and now believes that "if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and bad, the government shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get married." Furthermore, Sen. Portman is "going to be supportive of Ohioans having the opportunity to marry." Gay Ohioans, that is!

This is big. Portman is the only sitting Republican senator to hold such a position. He is a trailblazer. Why the change of heart? Portman's son is gay.

Did Portman come to this decision easily or lightly? Certainly not. He studied and discussed and thought. He consulted with religious and political leaders and colleagues. He made a concerted effort and took the time to discover a different perspective. He demonstrated an understanding that what is right is often not easy, a lesson we all learn as children yet seem to forget. The senator's about-face is laudable. However, I wonder whether he would have made this about-face had his son not been gay. Call me a pessimist, but I'm guessing not.

So what about the rest of America? What about the opponents of same-sex marriage, within congress and otherwise, who do not have gay children? Forget about marriage; what about the bullies of LGBT youth? What about the perpetrators of hate crimes? What about workplace discrimination? What about religious leaders who preach hate? What will it take for these people to reexamine their beliefs? How will they come to realize that lack of understanding is no excuse for hate or discrimination? When will they make the effort to discover a new perspective? Why should they?

I've heard it said that every American is one family member away from accepting the LGBT community. I can say from experience that that's not so. Furthermore, why should having an LGBT relative be a requirement for accepting the LGBT community? Would my Caucasian relatives be permitted to hold discriminatory views toward African Americans because there are none in the family? Certainly not. The notion is absurd. Is it not equally absurd for any person or group of people to discriminate against LGBT people until one pops up in the family? What about a country, or a government?

Sen. Portman, I thank you. I truly do. Coming from a conservative family, I know that the journey to understanding that you have made is not an easy one. Your son is lucky to have your love and support. Now I urge you to take action. I urge you to reach out to the members of Congress who do not have gay children. I urge you to explain that your family is hurt by discriminatory policies. Please consider the young LGBT Americans who do not yet have the courage to come out to their families. Consider those who have, to no good end. Consider the committed, loving LGBT couples who want to get married in every state.

Once again, thank you, Sen. Portman, for sharing your support for LGBT Americans. I genuinely appreciate it. Now what are you going to do about it?