Rob Portman’s gay marriage epiphany

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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You’ve probably heard that Sen. Rob Portman reversed his position on gay marriage, citing the fact that he recently found out his son was gay.

Not everyone on the left is celebrating Portman’s epiphany. In fact, some observers are calling it selfish. For example, Jonathan Chait wrote, “By Portman’s own account … he opposed gay marriage until he realized that opposition to gay marriage stands in the way of his own son’s happiness.”

It might surprise you to learn that I agree. This has nothing to do with whether or not gay marriage is good or bad policy, but rather, whether or not a personal experience should cause one to suddenly reverse a policy position.

To be sure, everyone’s positions evolve over time. As we age, we experience things that give us a new or different perspective. But if the sole reason for Portman’s switch is that he discovered he has a gay son, well that makes me wonder how deeply he thought through the issue to begin with, because, honestly, it shouldn’t matter.

He could love his son and still oppose gay marriage. Or he could be childless and still support it. His familial circumstances ought to be irrelevant. Has he not heard of thought exercises like the “veil of ignorance” or the “moral spectator”?

Progressives aren’t the only ones who should be skeptical of Portman’s reversal. This makes me wonder about his commitment to other issues. What if another family member had an unplanned pregnancy. Would he then change his position on abortion and the right to life?

In the opening episode of “House of Cards,” Kevin Spacey’s character says, “The nature of promises…is that they remain immune to changing circumstances.” Deeply-held convictions (that have actually been thought through) work the same way.

Matt K. Lewis