When Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican, announced earlier this month that he has evolved into a supporter of same-sex marriage after years of faithfully defending actual marriage, it seemed more a matter of shifting convenience than a blinding conversion of conscience. His son had announced that he is gay, and the senator apparently wanted to get his family’s values in alignment.
“Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay,” the Ohio Republican explained in a Columbus Dispatch op-ed essay. As a member of the House in 1996, Mr. Portman voted for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, one of two related cases that get their day in court Tuesday.
Homosexual “marriage” is an issue with profound social and moral ramifications for all of society. Such decisions shouldn’t be made on the basis of anecdotal evidence or how the court might affect one senator’s personal convenience. Mr. Portman could have announced his change of heart at any time over the past two years since Will’s announcement, or he could have waited another two weeks. Instead, he broadcast his new and revised convictions only days before the Supreme Court was set to take up the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and of California’s Proposition 8, which bars same-sex marriage (such as it is). The timing of the senator’s announcement suggests he was trying to influence the court, naive as a senator may be to think he can influence the Supreme Court.
The Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from according federal marriage-related tax and other benefits to same-sex couples while protecting states, where same-sex marriage is not permitted, from being compelled to recognize marriages in the nine states and the District of Columbia, where such unions are recognized.
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