Can a tiger change its stripes? When the change involves one of its immediate family members, the answer – it would seem – is yes.
Earlier this week, Ohio junior senator Rob Portman, a Republican, told CNN that he had a “change of heart” on the topic of same-sex marriage. While Portman had previously supported the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment, his son coming out to him and his wife helped sway his feelings on the subject.
For those in favour of marriage equality (or quite simply, human rights), it was a pleasantly surprising turn.
Even still, Portman has been criticized for the manner in which he had his “change of heart.” It seems that many politicians are wary of supporting gay marriage until they’re directly affected by it. President Obama cited his reversal to the fact that his daughters had friends with same-sex parents. Former vice-president Dick Cheney’s support of marriage equality is inextricably linked to the fact that his daughter is a lesbian.
But at least these politicians don’t use their personal experiences as exceptions to the rule, allowing them instead to be the catalyst for rethinking their long-held stances. They’re fine examples that it’s possible for even the most staunch opponents of something to change their minds, and evolve in their thinking. It seems that the gay community is gaining more and more support, even from the least likely sources.
Whenever a politician changes their mind on an issue, they risk the scorn of voters. It can be seen as move to curry favour with a special interest group in the hopes of shoring up support come election time. Both PM Harper and his former opponent Michael Ignatieff have been put under considerable scrutiny for such flip-flops in the past. So why rush to believe that reversals like that Portman are any different?
That’s the cynic in me, who wants to refuse changes of heart, and call them callous political moves. But the optimist in me wants to believe that a parent can get over their hangups for the sake of one of their children. And examples like this, even in the U.S., can give a lot of hope to gay and lesbians kids here who are terrified of coming out to their parents.
It serves as a refreshing reminder that if even a Republican politician with a history of backing anti-gay referendum can change his mind because of his son, other parents might just be able to come around too.
It takes a lot of bravery to come out when you’re not sure what the reaction of the people closest to you will be. It also takes a lot of guys to put aside what you thought was true, and come around to see the other side of the argument, and own that you were wrong.