We laugh at these lukewarm legislators as they attempt to explain away these shifts when it is obvious to us in the peanut gallery that we’ve all sent nincompoops to Washington.
So when a politician reverses a stance and honestly comes clean to why they have made a change I am eager to listen and learn.
This week Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio reversed his stance on same-sex marriage. This is a senator who was a co-sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal ban on same-sex marriage. He also has voted in the past not to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
What changed? Here is what was recorded at The Huffington Post.
In an interview with Ohio reporters in his Senate office, Portman said that his son, Will, came out to the senator and his wife in February 2011.
“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman said.
Portman said that his son, who is now a junior at Yale University, inspired him to reassess his position on same-sex unions. The senator also consulted clergy on the matter, as well as friends such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is openly gay. According to Portman, Cheney told the senator to “follow [his] heart” on the matter.
“The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly the Golden Rule, and the fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue,” Portman said.
In a column for the Columbus Dispatch he further explains,
“I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples,” he wrote. “As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage.”
“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.”
I think it can be easy for us to take stands and make rules from a distance. We determine what the Good Book says, and like the father figure Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, we put the words into our own culture, context and filters. We even make words up for terms that we don’t have a good translation for and then preach them like the English word is gospel truth. But when change threatens our tradition, as just happened to Sen. Portman, we are faced with making very hard choices. In the movie version of Fiddler, Tevye perceives his daughters at a great distance when he focuses on the tradition that he holds so dear to. It is when he turns to see his daughter’s faces that he finds them close enough to embrace.
We can draw our lines in the sand; we can let our gay sons and daughters know that they are dead to us, but we could truly be missing the heart of the Gospel if we side with tradition instead of standing close enough to embrace our loved ones.
I see a lot of people standing on platforms and behind pulpits regarding this issue. I hear people speaking in defense of ‘traditional’ marriage (which from a biblical perspective is honestly very funny – which heroes of the faith have a traditional marriage that you’d want to follow?). What I think we need is more people like Rob and Jane Portman, who are brave enough not to turn their back on their son because of his sexual orientation. And when they realized that some of their actions and opinions were contrary toward their God-given love, they turned around.
As for me – Yes, I have flip-flopped and want to be on the record. I am not in the least threatened by LBGT people having the same civil rights and privileges that I have. In fact, I think this is an injustice that needs to be thoughtfully, responsibly, and humbly addressed.
As for how I think the Bible addresses this has also changed. The original words, meanings, and contexts of the scriptures used to create the rules I was raised on is not near as clear as I thought they were. Honest, thorough study is needed and much of what I have read is based on opinion and filters, not consistent interpretation methods. When I hear someone say, “The Bible says it and that is clear enough for me,” I realize they have read the English translation but they haven’t diligently studied the scriptures. It makes me wonder if they really want to.
Do I have any answers? Maybe just one for the way I am approaching this issue – I have stopped bellowing the word “tradition” with a closed fist raised in the air and instead I have turned around to embrace my brothers and sisters standing right next to me. Once I get close enough I consistently see that these are people that I love. And I would rather live by the scriptures that are clear about loving one another, than those that are unclear to me about someone’s sexuality.