This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings

Prodigal Portman


Yeah, I know.  You thought I was just going to go on about my kids and what to make for dinner, maybe throw in a genealogy post every once in a while.  Nobody said I was going to start blathering on about religion or (gasp) social and political issues.  Well, I hadn’t meant to.  I didn’t start this thing to “get readers.”  I didn’t start it to gain a following.  I love interaction, especially on the internet, but I think of this as a sort of diary I leave lying out on the table.  You can read it if you want, and that gives me someone to “address” it to, but if nobody reads, that’s fine, too.  My kids will have something to look back on and see a record of sorts about what Mom was thinking when they were small.

But sometimes you have to tackle the tough stuff.  And when I tag this post, I’m sure it will be lumped into some piles with other ramblings and maybe folks will read it and be mad.  I hope so.  Get mad, and then lets talk about it.

If you’re my friend on Facebook the only thing you know for sure about my politics is that I believe strongly, and passionately, vehemently, even, that EVERYONE should have the same legal rights to the privileges and responsibilities of legal marriage.  If you need more background on me, know that I am pretty socially liberal in general, but also very fiscally conservative.  I’m Christian, Lutheran to be specific.  I think we all make our own American way, and the government should exist to keep us safe, protect our borders, provide some framework for education (only because it’s mandatory, and the more local the better), and to a limited extent, provide a safety net.  That’s pretty much it.  I mean, we can quibble about more, but that’s it in a nutshell.  So, now you know that.

We all woke up to Senator Rob Portman’s big announcement that appeared as an op-ed piece in the Columbus Dispatch.  While he was a co-sponsor of DOMA 17 years ago, today he has thought through his position “in a much deeper way.”  Awesome, I say!  Wonderful!  A member of the GOP, one who was seriously considered as vice presidential candidate, has come out and not just said, “My son is gay and I love him!” but “My son is gay and deserves everything I have.”

Immediately there were opinions all over the web.  This is the first one I saw, appearing in New York Magazine.  I was stunned at the judgement and unnecessary dismissal of Portman’s “deeper way” of thinking through his position.  Jonathon Chait said, near the end of his rant, “Support for gay marriage would be right even if he didn’t have a gay son. There’s little sign that any such reasoning has crossed his mind.”  What?  Did he miss the part early in Portman’s op-ed where he said that bit about the deeper thinking?  He didn’t say, “Oh, my son is gay and he needs to get married.”  Two years ago he found that his son was gay and since then he has thought about it in that “deeper way” whatever that means.  Well, what does it mean?  For anyone to say it means he only feels it because it affects him is to only see half of it.  It’s as selfish as it is accusatory of selfishness.

I’ll tell you what that “deeper way” is.  It’s prayerful.  It’s religious.  It’s about a man who had to go to his knees and tell God he was wrong.  I don’t know Senator Portman, but I believe he is what he claims to be, a Christian.  A Methodist, I believe.  So, no man who calls himself a Christian and means it is going to put himself out there as reversing his opinion about anything without a great deal of prayerful consideration.  I’m going to go even further and say that he has likely been praying about his son since Will was born.  If the accusers out there today have anything right about the senator, it’s that he probably didn’t give any thought to whether gay marriage was right or wrong until he found himself the father of a gay man.  He went along with his party and their agenda without praying much about that.  It’s easy to feel right with all the folks surrounding you repeating what you already think you believe.  So, he only began this prayerful consideration after his son came out.  I don’t care.  He landed on the right side, and I’m glad to have him here.

So, he goes along for ages, just completely buying the United Methodist Church’s teaching that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,”  He goes forward all the time accepting the GOP’s platform which we all know is decidedly unfriendly to LGBTs.  Now he has a reason to question it.  A good reason.  His son.  His very own son is gay.  Soooooo, prayer.  That’s where we go, us prayerful folks.

You know, I didn’t always see things the way I do.  I once bought that whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” crap.  I was a kid, and it seemed to be enough.  So many people were spouting that, and it seemed to neatly tie up a moral dilemma.  Plus, I was just kid.  What the hell did I know?  But somewhere along the way, I realized I knew a LOT of gay people.  (Though, oddly, not too many openly bi or transgender.  Sorry, irrelevant side note.)  I knew gay people who were out.  I knew gay people who were so far in the closet they hadn’t admitted their sexuality to themselves.  I knew gay people who were clearly and frighteningly aware of their sexuality and still painfully locked in the closet.  Everyone who goes to college knows these people, right?  Or at least everyone who goes to college and spends time in the theatre.  I began to wonder what God wants for these “sinners.”

I knew that I was no more, and certainly no less, of a sinner than these friends who happen to be gay.  I knew that God forgave me all my sins, those having to do with sex (and yeah, there were a couple of those), and those having to do with desires unacted on, and even those having nothing whatsoever to do with this discussion.  So, God forgives them, too, right?  Sure.  But while I’m willing to stipulate that pre-marital sex, or promiscuous sex, or any sex not part of a loving and committed relationship (marriage, but by who’s definition?) is a sin, what difference do the details of that sin make if it’s forgiven?  Dirty is dirty, but clean is clean, no matter how dirty you were.  So, even if gay sex is (and I’m not saying it is) a sin, I never could get myself to wrap my head around the thought that God would want anyone to NEVER experience the closeness of a loving, two-person, intimate relationship.  I just can’t believe that God would say, you must push away anyone who you feel drawn to in that special way because it will likely lead to gay sex and that’s bad.

So for a while I figured that gay people were born gay and had sinful gay sex, or they were born gay and DIDN’T have sinful gay sex.  But that doesn’t wash, either, does it?  We’re talking about changing WHO someone is.  Oh, I am so botching this.  Here.  Read Matthew Vine’s transcript.  You can watch the video from his site, too, but the transcript reads better.  He says it so much better than I do.  And he sites the arguments against, scripture and all.  I urge you to read it, whatever your stance.  He is measured and calm, and real.  He explains calmly and respectfully why those arguments that amount to “the Bible says it” or “God says it” are just not valid.  Or AT LEAST not any more valid than the other side.

Now?  Now I’m an adult.  I have even more gay friends, but most of them are out today.  And I’m so glad.  I’m glad for them.  I’m glad for those who love them.  I’m glad for my kids.  Two such friends are Matt and Ray Lees.  They were featured in a New York Times piece in the summer of 2011 about gay couples and adoption.  They have adopted eight kids.  That’s right, you read that right.  EIGHT children.  EIGHT!  They are the parents I think of when I go to bed exhausted after looking after my three.  They had three adopted children and when they found out that the five siblings they’d been asked to take would be separated, they said, “Bring it on!”  They remodeled and added on to their house, over improving it way beyond the rest of the neighborhood.  They have SEVEN kids who are third grade and younger.  It is beyond me how they get through the day, but they do. And they like it. (Well, most of the time, I’m sure they have their moments, too.)  They can’t even adopt as a couple.  Ray has three, and Matt adopted the other five.  They have “custody agreements” but how does that work?  And both parents have to work to keep health insurance for everyone.

I don’t want to make their case.  I want to tell you about what they mean to me and my family.  I don’t get to hang out with them, like ever, between the eleven kids we have running in different directions, my school, their jobs, all of it.  But when I run into them on the school yard, or in the grocery, I find myself gabbing until I’m late for something or a kid is melting down.  I am drawn to them because they are such good people.  I am compelled to share kid stories or laundry crisis, or whatever.  I can feel their love.  I can feel how much they love each other.  I can see how much they love those kids.  I can see how much they love their friends, me included.  Surely their children feel it.  MY children feel it.  I do not believe that God does not work through these men.  I do not believe that those men are any more or less created in God’s image than I am.  I thank them because not only is it harder for them to get the laundry done and the meals made and all the other drudgery of family life, but they have to deal with all the obstacles put in place by those who would have you believe that God doesn’t want their family to exist.  The obstacles put in place by those who believe that God wants them, through laws, to make it more difficult for their family to exist.  Thanks, guys.

But, again, I’m off on something else I didn’t mean to talk about.  I’m not out to convince anyone to change their mind about the sinfulness of gayness, gay sex, gay families, whatever.  I want to convince everybody to let up on Rob Portman.  He has a gay son, so that made him rethink his assumptions and his acceptance of what the groups he belongs to teach.  Should he have questioned them before?  Sure, but none of us can go back.  He can only go forward.  And because he has a gay son, he has gone forward with a reversal of his earlier stance.  It will cost him professionally, I’m guessing, but he’s made peace with that

I’m addressing this to the rest of you who agree with me about gay rights.  If you’re reading, if you’re STILL reading, please consider welcoming Sen. Portman to the right side of history.  Please forgive him his earlier silliness.  If you don’t, if we keep yelling about what he USED to believe, it will be that much harder for any other conservative leader to wake up and join us.  Don’t make it harder than it is.


Author: tenoclockbird

Just another mommy/student/librarian wannabe writing a blog.

4 thoughts on “Prodigal Portman

  1. I’m sorry. I have a problem with Portman’s hypocrisy. His son came out to him and the family two years ago. He continued to vote against LGBT rights over and over, and supported the GOP platform. Now that it has a chance of gaining him some political traction, he’s in support. Sure, I forgive him, but I still don’t trust him.

    • I do see that his timing is probably contrived to do him the least harm and possibly some good, you’re right. But he is a politician, after all. He landed on the right side, and personal feelings aside, I see the LGBT rights movement doing more harm than good by continuing to give him public grief. I guess what I’m saying is that you’re right, Mikey, but we still have to let it go.

  2. You know that I am with you on this Ellie. The Senator once was lost but now he is found…regardless of how he saw the light, we should welcome him with open arms and recognize that his soul-searching might make it easier for others to follow his example.

    I like to think that our movement is based on love and acceptance rather than judgmental exclusivity.

  3. This is awesome. Love love LOVE it. Thanks for speaking up, it makes a difference!

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