- Posted March 15, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Senator Upholds Family Values in Support of Son & Equality
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
Laying politics aside, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman today gave more than lip service to family values. He gave action to his strong commitment to the value of family in an op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch and in an exclusive interview with CNN's Dana Bash.
Portman in revealing that his son, Will, is gay stated that his son deserved equality and the "joy" to wed the man that steals his son's heart. Portman said that he has moved away from his votes in Congress where he voted for anti-gay legislation to now embrace the belief that his son and others like him should not be denied the right to wed, whether opposite gender or same gender.
I applaud the Senator for his courage, as a leading conservative on fiscal issues, to come out in favor of providing all citizens equality under the law.
Unlike many who are questioning why it took the Senator two years after Will came out to his parents to change his mind and state his public support of same-gender marriage, I understand the why.
In making his decision, Portman chose to show unconditional love for his son. It is this unconditional love that is the bedrock from which all other family values spring. Portman chose to take his son as he is, whether he agreed with him or not on the issue.
I understand, perhaps coming from a generation when even speaking the term "gay" was not acceptable and only used in derision, how Portman had to wrestle with the issue and become as he said "comfortable" with his change in mind. Not all parents, in a fact sadly a good percentage of parents, are not so ready to offer unconditional love to their gay and lesbian children.
Too often too many teens are kicked out of their homes, cut off from family, disowned, beaten and abused by their parents when the parents learn their son or daughter is gay. There are other parents who choose to ignore, hoping by ignoring the "gay" will just go away. There are also those parents who accept and continue to love their child while not accepting the child's "choice".
In my own life, I have seen this played out on all levels. I have had friends dumped and kicked to the curb. I have had friends lovingly accepted. I have had friends whose family has tolerated, but never accepted.
For me, it has been a mix of reactions.
I remember when I was not quite 16 tearfully telling my father how I and a couple of male friends had "played around". The confession came about because I was afraid of what one of my brothers was going to say to my father. I wanted to get out ahead and make sure the "truth" came out.
In one of the rare moments when I actually felt and believed my father loved me, as I lay crying as his arms enfolded me, he cried too. I was still unsure of who or what I was.
After those few moments, my father lectured me on how what my friends and I had done could put me in prison. My father warned me of the dangers and the likelihood the police would come to take me away.
For those in the younger generations this may seem like a nightmare or some fantastic tale, but you must remember at this time, there were laws that did put gays in jail for being gay.
This was the time that the psychiatrists still labeled gays as having a mental defect. At that time, the police could, without accountability, beat up and leave for dead a gay male who may have been guilty of smiling in a way the officers thought was flirting.
We had to walk and talk carefully. There was a real danger to life and limb to live life out and proud.
My father and I never spoke of that moment again. He never said anything to my mother.
Years later when in my mid-20s, I tried to explain who I was to my Mom. My Mom chose to ignore and pretend I didn't say what I said. She chose out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
Sure most of my guests over the years for the holidays were almost exclusively male. When asked who was joining me at home, the response was always the same, "That's Uncle Mark's friend." Nothing else was said.
Over the last eight years Iohn and I have been together, my Mom has accepted that I am her son whom she loves. She still does not approve. She has, however, accepted Iohn as my closest friend, companion and room mate. She has extended her love to him as have the rest of the family, but she stops short of accepting us as a couple.
So, I can understand how it has taken Portman two years to become "comfortable". Coming out isn't easy for either the person coming out or their family. Times are changing as are attitudes about those who happen to be gay, but there is still a ways to go.
Portman, however, is not the first Republican or conservative to change his mind about same-gender equality. There is former Vice President Dick Cheney for example. There are also evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who have also changed their minds over the years, including within my own family.
Underneath the change, the reason has been the same - unconditional love.
I applaud Portman for changing his mind and having the courage, along with Will, to show that true family values demand unconditional love. As Portman noted, having a personal experience made a big difference in his thinking. Having a gay son caused Portman to re-evaluate and re-examine his position on same-gender equality.
Alas, many parents in the same situation, as well as too many politicians, would choose a different course. Rather than living family values, too many would worry more about "what will people say" than offering unconditional love and support to their child.
Portman chose family over politics and in so doing put family values into action and not just words.
From the Cornfield, this is a momentous day. Hopefully Portman will inspire other conservative and Republican families to re-evaluated their position on this issue.
As Americans, equality should be a right of all Americans.
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