Rob Portman’s son tells his coming-out story

Chris Moody

Will Portman, the son of Ohio's Rob Portman,who became the first Republican senator to voice public support for same-sex marriage earlier this month, described in an essay on Monday how he told his parents he was gay.

In the Yale Daily News, Will Portman said he wrote his parents a letter from college after being unable to tell them in person. From the piece:

In February of freshman year, I decided to write a letter to my parents. I’d tried to come out to them in person over winter break but hadn’t been able to. So I found a cubicle in Bass Library one day and went to work. Once I had something I was satisfied with, I overnighted it to my parents and awaited a response.

They called as soon as they got the letter. They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive. That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was.

Will Portman said that when his father was being vetted by presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a possible running mate, he was "relieved" to hear that he wasn't chosen for the job.

I started talking to my dad more about being gay. Through the process of my coming out, we’d had a tacit understanding that he was my dad first and my senator a distant second. Eventually, though, we began talking about the policy issues surrounding marriage for same-sex couples.

The following summer, the summer of 2012, my dad was under consideration to be Gov. Romney’s running mate. The rest of my family and I had given him the go-ahead to enter the vetting process. My dad told the Romney campaign that I was gay, that he and my mom were supportive and proud of their son, and that we’d be open about it on the campaign trail.

When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign. Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.

The senator announced his support for same-sex marriage in a Columbus Dispatch op-ed on March 15.

The Supreme Court will hear two separate cases this week related to the issue this week in Washington, D.C.